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Cornell University Library 
QH 331. D77 

The history and theory of vitalism 

3 1924 003 039 330 

Cornell University 

The original of tliis book is in 
tine Cornell University Library. 

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'the problem of INDIVIDUALITY,' ETC. 







D 7 7 , 
A- o, . ra 1 



The many admirers of Professor Driesch in England 
and America will, it is hoped, welcome this succinct 
account of the Vitalism with which his name is so 
prominently associated, both in its historical and 
theoretical aspects. 

Students of The Science and Philosophy of the 
Organism, the Gifford Lectures, 1907-8, by which 
Professor Driesch is perhaps best known to English 
readers, will find in Part II. of this book an account 
of the logical foundations of Vitalism, arranged in 
a rather different and in many ways easier form. 

As the author explains in his Foreword to Part 
II., aU the systematic section has been completely 
rewritten for the English edition ; and its arrange- 
ment is precisely the reverse of that adopted in 
the London Lectures, 1913, which are being pub- 
lished by Messrs. Macmillan almost simultaneous^ 
with this work. In the historical section the 
original text has been left substantially unaltered. 
This will account for a certain discrepancy between 
the philosophical views expressed in Part II. and 
those occasionally implied in the earlier pages — in 
particular as regards the author's position towards 
mechanical physics and metaphysics. The change 
is due to the fact that he no longer believes that 


qualitative Energetics can take the place of a real 
theory of matter (whether mechanical or electro- 
dynamical). He now regards a critical metaphysic 
as possible, and no longer supports any kind oi 
conceptual phenomenalism as the final word of 

My first debt as translator is, needless to say, to 
the author himself, with whom I have been in com- 
munication throughout the work ; whom I also had 
the advantage of consulting personally during a 
visit to Heidelberg last summer, and on the occasion 
of his lecture arranged by Professor James Ward 
last October in Cambridge ; and who has moreover 
most carefully revised the translation throughout. 
I wish further to express my special indebtedness to 
Miss 0. H. Persitz, of Newnham College, for invalu- 
able assistance, both philosophical and linguistic, 
at every stage of my labours. 

From the Italian translation of this work by 
Dr. Stenta of Trieste, I have derived many useful 
suggestions, one of which is speciallj^ acknowledged 
on page 48 ; while Dr. R. Assheton, Mr. C. F. Angus, 
Mr. Wildon Carr, Mr. A. E. Heath, and Mr. K. R. 
Lewin have very kindly read through portions of 
the book in proof. 

Where an English translation of a work quoted 
in the text exists — as in the case of Dr. Bernard's 
Kant's Kritih of Judgment — I have often availed 
myself of it without considering acknowledgment 


Magdalene College, Cambridge, 
March, 1914. 




\\ The Different Kinds of Tbleologt 1 




^a) Aristotle - 11 

(6) The New Science and the New Philosophy 22 

(i) The Old and the New - 22 

(ii) Harvey - 26 

(iii) Georg Ernest Stahl 30 

(c) Evolution, Epigenesis — and After 37 

(i) The Outcome of the Dispute 37 

(ii) BuflFon. Needham. Maupertuis 40 

(iii) Caspar Friedrich Wolff 44 

(iv) Bonnet. Haller 49 

(v) Blumenbach - 57 

(d) Kant — " Critique of Judgment " 66 

(e) The Vitalism of the Nature-Philosophers 93 

(i) Oken - 96 

(ii) Eeil 98 

(iii) Treviranus 100 

(iv) The Dogmatic School 107 

(v) Johannes Miiller 113 

(vi) Liebig - - - 118 

(vii) Schopenhauer 121 

(viii) The End of the Old Vitalism - 123 





(a) LoTZB 1^' 

^(6) Bernard 132 

(c) The Materialist-Darwinian Tendency 137 



1. The Tradition 149 

2. The Position of Philosophy 158 

(a) Eduard von Hartmann 158 

(6) Other Philosophers - 161 

(c) Psychologists 161 

(d) Edmund Montgomery 163 

3. The Anti-Darwinian Theory of Descent 167 

4. Nbovitalism 170 


Foreword 187 

A. Pure Looic 189 

B. Nature 190 

C. Becoming 191 

D. The Forms of Becoming 195 
y^ E. Individualising and Singular C'adsality 202 

F. The Empirical Proofs op Vitalism 207 

O. The Problem of Suprapersonal Individuality 216 

H. Monism and Dualism 223 

V'/. Metaphysical Conclusions 232 



The main question of Vitalism is not whether the 
processes of life can properly be called purposive : it 
is rather the question if the purposiveness in those 
processes is the result of a special constellation of 
factors known already to the sciences of the inorganic, 
or if it is the result of an autonomy peculiar to the pro- 
cesses themselves. For that there is, as a matter of 
fact, much that is purposive in vital phenomena is 
merely an immediate deduction from the definition 
of the concept of purpose itseK, and from the applica- 
tion of this definition to living beings. 

In the language of everydaj^ life, we designate 
as purposive such actions as experience shows to 
contribute directly or indirectly to a definitely 
desired end — or of which this is at any rate assumed. 
I judge all purposiveness in actions from my own 
standpoint : that is to say, I know for myself when 
my actions deserve the predicate purposive, because 
I know my own objects. With this I start. The 
actions of other men I describe as purposive if I 
understand the object which they have in view : 
that is to say, if I can imagine that that object could 


be my own, and consider them in relation to that 

But I do not hmit the application of the word pur- 
' posive to the actions of other men : I extend it 
already in everyday life in two directions : and from 
this extension arises, on the one hand, the application 
of the word purposive or teleological to biology in 
general, and, on the other, the fundamental problem 
of biology itself. 

I describe as purposive a great deal of animal 
movement, not only in certain of the higher animals 
whose movements are actually called actions, but 
also that group of movements which, in view of their 
constancy and coherence, are usually referred to not 
as actions but as instincts or reflexes. From these 
to the movements of plants which turn either 
towards or away from the light is a very short step, 
and it is only one step further to describe as pur- 
posive also those movements of growth which create 
out of the germ the complete organisms of animals 
and plants in a typical succession. 

In this way, then, we finally get all phenomena in 
the living being which can be shown to be directed 
to a single point, thought of in some sense as an end, 
subordinated to the purely descriptive concept of 
purposiveness. From what we have said it wiU be 
seen that a certain arbitrariness is unavoidable in the 
designation of any event as teleological, for we can 
only proceed here by analogy. This arbitrariness, 
however, is not of any great consequence, as it may 
be stated once and for all that the term is used at 
this stage merely to give a certain orientation and 
nothing more. 


We have already said that, in order to describe a 
process as purposive, it must be connected with the 
idea of an end : it is thereby implied that the concept 
of teleology is extended to many processes of very 
different kinds, and also that it is limited to the 
organic in the first place, at least in so far as so-called 
natural objects in the narrower sense are concerned. 
For it is only in relation to organisms that the pos- 
sibility of an end thus arbitrarily postulated can be 
thought of, at any rate without further considera- 
tion. This is due, among other things, essentially to 
the fact that relation to an end implies two things : 
in the first place, the special adaptation of the process 
in question to an end (or better, its position in a 
system of objects thus typically adapted), and 
secondly, its appearance in an indefinite number of 
individuals or examples — in short, its unlimited 
plurality. This is a postulate which in nature is 
fulfilled in organic natural bodies, and at the first 
glance only in them. We can therefore describe very 
many biological processes as purposive. 

We do, however, as a matter of fact, also describe 
as purposive processes in certain objects which are 
not organic, but which are not objects of " nature " 
in the narrower sense — that is to say, in so far as we 
can speak intelligibly if not strictly of " culture " as 
an opposition to nature. The processes to which we 
refer occur in artefacts due to the action of men. 
Here we have our second extension of the concept 
purposive of which we spoke, and here we may start 
with our statement of the fundamental problem of 

I do not think it wise to describe machines, as 


things, by the term purposive. This word should be 
retained for processes, but every single process in a 
machine is purposive. We may call the machine as 
a whole " practical " : it is the result of purposive 
action, of human action, but it is the fact that it 
is made for processes that distinguishes it from other 
human artefacts, from works of art for instance. 

There are, then, inorganic things, namely, those 
made by men, which show us processes deserving 
the predicate purposive. It is clear that here the 
purposiveness of each single process rests on the 
specific order of the specific parts of the machine, 
and is determined by this order. In other words, 
each single effect in a machine is only purposive in 
so far as it is part of a higher specific whole ; and 
this it is in virtue of the constitution or structure of 
that whole. 

Our reasoning has now brought us to a point at 
which the problem which we have described as the 
fundamental problem of biology presents itself for 
consideration. We are confronted by the all import- 
ant question : are those processes in the organism, 
which we described as purposive, perhaps only fur- 
posive in virtue of a given structure or tectonic, of 
a " machine " in the widest sense, on the basis of 
which they play their part, being purposive there- 
fore only in the sense in which processes in a 
machine made by men are purposive ; or is there 
another special kind of teleology in the realm of 
organic life ? 

It will be seen that we must first decide about the 
ultimate laws of phenomena which we have hitherto 
described only analogically in a more external 


manner, for it cannot be too often repeated that the 
mere assertion of purposiveness, mere teleology, to 
use the general technical expression, is purely des- 
criptive. The term descriptive teleology will there- 
fore be used definitely throughout the whole of this 
book to designate every descriptive view which deals 
simply with the existence of purposiveness. Descrip- 
tive teleology leaves the most important point still 
open, for life in particular this question : are the 
processes of life to be judged teleological only in 
virtue of their given order, only because a given 
mechanical form lies beneath them, while every single 
one is really a pure physical or chemical process — 
or are the processes of life purposive because of an 
unanalysible autonomy ? 

For the future we shall use the terms static and 
dynamic teleology to mark this opposition, in dis- 
tinction to merely descriptive teleology. 

Static teleology leads to a mechanistic theory of the 
organism : the process of life and its order is only a J 
special case of those laws which are valid elsewhere/ 
and of the general order of the world. The constella-l 
tion of all the single cosmic elements just happens to 
be of such a nature that we also get amongst them 
those processes which are grouped together as " life." 
According to this view life is only distinctive as a 
combination and not because of its own laws. The 
question, whence comes the given order with which 
static teleology operates, is insoluble ; and it is pre- 
cisely owing to this circumstance that the life- 
machine does appear to be something different from 
technical machines whose origin we know, even if 
the kind of purposiveness is the same in both cases. 


Dynamic teleology leads us to what is generally 
called Vitalism ; it leads us to the recognition of the 
" Autonomy of vital processes." 

Which of these two views is the right one ? 

The answer given in earlier times to this question, 
and the answer which we ourselves give, it is the 
purpose of this book to set forth ; and the object of 
this introduction has been to prepare for such an 

The result of this introduction, the recognition that 
is to say that there can be a static and a dynamic 
teleology gives us a critical reagent, a criterion by 
which we can test every body of doctrine offered by 
history : with it we can ask what is the real meaning 
of any theory, and we can do this even in those not 
infrequent cases when an author himself is very far 
from being clear as to the distinction between the 
concepts descriptive-, static-, and dynamic-teleology. 

Our introductory remarks have been written to 
make easier our historical analysis and in consequence 
the understanding of the whole : they must be con- 
sidered entirely as something preliminary and in no 
way our final view with regard to purposiveness. 

Turning, then, to the examination of the earlier 
Vitalism and its development, we may remark once 
and for all that our treatment is concerned less with 
the personal element than with what is typical in the 
view we may be considering ; and that consequently 
no weight is laid on completeness in the sense of a 
real history in the narrower sense, while on the 
other hand a suitable choice of material is of all the 
greater importance. If in spite of our search for the 
typical it is impossible for us to make our exposition 


appear not only as an historical but also at the same 
time as a logical development or progress, such as we 
find in standard histories of Mechanics or of the 
theory of Heat, our failure will only be blamed by 
those who are ignorant of the peculiarities of our 
subject. Mechanics is to a great extent an a priori 
" seK-evident " science, and the same is true of a 
great part of physics, viz. thermodynamics : here 
discovery is to a certain extent only getting clear 
about one's own views, and chance circumstances 
play scarcely any part in questions of principle and 
very little in the historical development. Biology 
on the other hand is dependent in its progress in a 
very high degree on such chance circumstances, on 
" discoveries " in the narrower sense, and if its 
history is not wholly composed of such yet they are 
likely at any rate to obscure the really logical side of 
its progressive development. 




In an historical exposition of Vitalism which iieeps 
the typical always in view, Aristotle may on the 
whole be regarded as representative of Antiquity. 
Moreover, since his views on biological matters form 
the basis of all theorising right into the eighteenth 
century, he has also every right to be regarded as 
representative of the medieval and early modern con- 
ceptions of life. The analysis of the Aristotelian 
theory of life must therefore be one of the corner 
stones of any historical work on biology. 

Some parts of his works De Generaiione Animalium 
and De Anima will come under consideration for 
our purpose. We shall begin by analysing the 
theoretical views exposed in the first of the above 
works in order that, after we have seen how Aristotle 
traces everything back to the activities of the soul, 
we may turn to the statements of the other, which 
are of a more fundamental nature. 

It is highly interesting to realise that the first 
exponent of a scientific " vitalism " takes as his 


point of departure the problems of formation, or 
embryology as it is called to-day. 

Already in this Aristotle is typical : and not only 
is he a typical representative of antiquity and the 
Middle Ages, but also a typical precursor of all 
vitalistic theories until the most recent times. In 
addition to the phenomena of co-ordinated animal 
movements, those of formation from the germ have 
always been the starting point of all Vitalism. 

Male and female both contribute to the creation of 
new life, for they both secrete seed (o-7re^//a). But 
the female secretion, which Aristotle identifies with 
the monthly courses, supplies only the matter [vXt]), 
whereas the male determines the form and principle ^ 
of the organic changes. The seed, as has been stated, 
need not come from the whole body, for " why can- 
not the seed at its origin be so created, that it can 
turn into blood and flesh without itself having to be 
blood and flesh ? " The mingling of the male and 
female secretion gives the germ (Kvri/xa). It is of no 
further consequence to us here that the germ divides 
into eggs (omv) and worms {a-Ku>\>j^) according as to 
whether the progeny springs from a part only — in 
which case the rest serves as nutriment — or from the 
whole of the germ. 

What part now does the male seed play in the 
development of that " superior and more divine " 
element {^iXriov koI deiorepov), which is not materi- 
ally connected with the development? 

Here begins Aristotle's theory of development. It 

' eldos Kal apxv rrjs Kwljaem. The word Kipijcns means in Aristotle 
not only change of position : it is much more general. The same 
is true of ipx^ which means not only beginning in time. 


is introduced by a clear formulation of the problem. 
" We must examine more closely the way in which 
a given plant or animal develops from the seed. 
For everything must necessarily arise out of some- 
thing, and by something and as something (e/c 
Ttw? Kai VTTO Tivog KM Ti)." That from which it 
arises is the matter supplied by the mother. " We 
are concerned here not with that out of which, but 
with that by which the parts come into being." 

The supposition that this conditioning factor 
by which the parts arise should be something 
outside the seed is rejected as contradictory : it 
therefore must lie within the seed, not indeed as 
something separated from it, but as a real part of it 
— transmitted to, and in turn becoming a part of 
the progeny. 

Aristotle knows through various observations that 
the embryonic parts are not all simultaneously 
present, but come successively into being ; and thus, 
to use a modern term, we may call his theory 
" epigenetic." How then do these parts come into 
being : does the one form the other or do they simply 
arise one after the other ? This somewhat dark 
question is briefly answered. The heart, the first 
visible part of the embryo, does not maJce the liver 
and the liver again another part, but one part comes 
into being after the other, just as the man succeeds 
the boy, but does not come into being through him. 
Otherwise, quite apart from the fact that there 
would be no ground for the formation of the heart, 
the nature and form of the liver would have to be 
contained in the heart : for, according to Aristotle, 
whenever anjiihing is produced by nature or by 


art, there arises something which is potentially 
{§vvd/j.ei ov) through something which is in actuality 
(evTeXey^ig. bv). 

Thus we arrive at fundamental problems, and 
moreover at fundamental difficulties of the Aris- 
totelian philosophy, and must therefore interrupt 
our exposition. 

The question is as to the words dynamis and ente- 
lechy. By dynamis is not really meant what in 
modern terminology would be called " potentiality " 
or " potential energy," at least not that only, and in 
any case not in the passage to which we have drawn 
attention. The concept is much wider : by dynamis 
the statue is already contained in the block of marble, 
and indeed it is in this sense, as we shall see later on, 
that Aristotle uses the word in our passage. Ente- 
lechy is that which " is " in the highest sense of the 
word, even if it is not strictly a realised thing ; in 
this sense the statue, before it is realised, exists in 
the mind of the sculptor. We can see that the con- 
cept of entelechy rather than that of dynamis 
corresponds, though not completely, to the modern 
concept of the potential. 

But further logical examination being foreign to 
our present purpose we shaU proceed with the 

There lies a manifest difficulty in the fact that, 
as we have seen, one part of the growing body does 
not, according to Aristotle, condition the formation 
of another part, for this actually implies, to put it 
briefly, that the cause of the differentiation of the 
parts does not lie in the seed ; on the other hand, the 
seed is to be regarded as a true part of the growing 


body. Yet it was stated earlier that the cause of the 
differentiation cannot lie outside the germ. 

How is this knot to be unravelled ? 

An answer is found in the admission that, under 
certain circumstaTwes, a thing can come into being by 
the action of something outside it. At this point 
Aristotle reintroduces in a much wider form than 
before that scheme, which he had not considered 
applicable in the case of one organ being formed out 
of another, for instance, the liver out of the heart : 
" there is something which forms the parts, though 
not directly as an identifiable entity, nor yet as if 
the final development were already existent in it." ^ 

Morphogenesis as a whole is rather to be regarded 
as a kind of artistic creation : 

" The manner in which each part arises must be 
deduced from the principle that everjiihing which 
comes into existence either in nature or in art, 
arises by something actually existent (vw' evepyela 
ovro^), out of something, of a similar nature, 
potentially existent (Swdjuiei). Now the seed is 
such, and with such an impulse and principle, 
that, when the impulse ceases, each part comes 
into being and comes moreover endowed with 
soul." 2 

This then is the main outline of the Aristotelian 
theory of development. The view, also elaborated, 
that each organic part is endowed with soul, that 
for instance a dead eye is improperly so called, is 

^ The original is : Srt fjiev odv ian rt 5 irote?, oOx outus d^ ujs rdde tI, 
oi55' iviirapxov ws reTeXefffih'ov t6 irpCrrov BtjXov. {De gen. an, 11. i. 41.) 

^t6 fJi^f odv ffxipfj'.a. Toiodrov Kal ^ec Kiv7}(TLV koX apx^jv Totair-qv, 
Siare iravoiJ.ivns t^s Ki^'ijireus flveadai iKaarov twv fiopluv kclI Ifitfvxov. 


secondary the chief contention : the seed forms 
the body out of the matter suppHed by the mother, 
endowing it with a soul in virtue of a special prin- 
ciple ; this principle it derives from another entity, 
from that which truly exists " in activity." It 
therefore plays an intermediate part. That which 
" is " in reality, from which everything derives, is 
the creator or rather his soul. 

A gap in the text interrupts any further exposi- 
tion ; but the foregoing embodies the essentials. 

All development therefore resembles to a great 
extent the production of works of art ; Aristotle is 
always returning to this simile. It is interesting to 
notice with what nicety he points out the part of the 
inanimate factors, both in development and art-pro- 
duction : hardness, softness, and other qualities 
might well be influenced by heat and cold, but not 
so the essence (tov \6yov) of bones, for instance ; just 
as heat and cold, though they make iron hard or soft, 
yet produce no sword. 

The distinction between a work of art and one of 
nature is, however, not overlooked : " art is the 
source and form of what is becoming, working on 
something outside itself ; but the movement of 
nature takes place in the thing itself, and proceeds 
from a second entity which has this form 

It cannot be denied that Aristotle's theory of 
development is not entirely free from obscurities ; 
indeed I venture to state that the obscurities of the 
preceding argument are most probably not to be 
ascribed exclusively to my manner of exposition, 
however much this may leave to be desired. What 


in spite of all inspires us with the highest admiration 
for the great Greek thinker is the way in which he 
perpetually and manifestly struggles for clearness in 
this hardest of all nature's problems, how he turns 
over and over again and goes deeply into the same 
questions with the most dehcate logical subtlety. 
Howclumsycompared to this is mostmodemresearch. 

Aristotle briefly disposes of the question as to how 
in each separate case the seed furnishes the develop- 
ing organism with a soul : it transmits to the secre- 
tion of the matrix the same movement by which it 
is itself animated. This may happen because the 
female is in reality a mutilated male and because 
her monthl}' courses are seed which does not possess 
the principle of soul. 

Those different stages of the " soul " which to a 
certain extent determine the various stages of the 
organic are of more importance for us : plants 
possess for their lifetime, and animals at the outset, 
only the nutritive soul (to Ope—TiKov), which is the 
soul of growth (aii^r^Timov) and also identical with 
that generative {yewriTiKov) already existing as a 
principle in the seed. Later on animals are endowed 
with the sensitive soul {altrdrjTtKov) connected with the 
appetitive (SpeKTiKov) ; it is precisely in virtue of 
this that they are animals. Men alone have that 
third endowment Reason (vovi), which alone comes 
" from without " (Ovpadev) and is divine {Qelov). 

But this point leads into Aristotle's theory of the 
soul, and it will not be amiss to draw upon his three 
books De Anima for a few elucidations of the 
above exposition. 

The possession of one of the stages of the soul 


above enumerated is sufficient to animate the body, 
for life in its broadest sense is " the nourishment, 
increase and decrease of a thing through itself." If 
it possesses many stages of the soul then all the 
lower are contained in the highest, " as the triangle 
is contained in the quadrilateral," and each lower 
stage serves the higher as a tool ; for bodies are 
after all only tools (opyavov) of the spiritual, and 
" exist only for the sake of the soul." 

It has already been explained that the soul as an 
actuality, as an " entelechy," organises the body ; 
here again, and in a yet higher sense, Aristotle calls 
the soul " the principle {ap'xfl) of aU things living," 
to reach later his famous definition that the soul in 
the broadest sense is " the first actuality (Trpuyri] 
evTeXe-^eia) of a natural body, having in it the capa- 
city of life, and of one possessed of organs." 

This, if the words be rightly interpreted, conveys 
all that the great thinker had to say : the soul is the 
sufficient ground for the existence of the organic 
body, for its mode of existence and for its behaviour 
in every respect. The soul is actuality in the highest 
sense, i.e. in that of " scientific, not of immediate 

The question whether soul and body are one has 
as little sense as in the case of wax and its form. 
The soul cannot exist without a body, yet it is not 
the body but rather something inherent in the body : 
" if the eye were a living being, then eyesight would 
be its soul, this being the substance as notion or 
form of the eye ; and the eye would be the matter 
of the eyesight." 

All the lower stages of the soul serve as has been 


said as tools to human reason (vou^), as the highest 
stage. The passions belong to these lower stages ; 
and it is not therefore the highest soul " which is 
angry or pities, but the man that does so with the 
soul." Old age, too, must be due to an affection not 
of the soul as such but of the body, in which it has 
its dwelling. " Thought and the exercise of know- 
ledge weaken with old age, because something else 
within decays ; thought itself is impassive." 

Reason alone is immortal since it has come from 
without and is divine : when a body dies " there is 
neither memory nor love, for these never did belong 
to the thinking faculty but to the composite whole 
which has perished." 

This must suffice to make clear the general lines of 
Aristotle's view of life ; we cannot here enter on 
more subtle logical disquisitions concerning the con- 
ceptions Dynamis, Entelecheia, and Energeia, or 
into discussions about Matter {v\>]), Form {elSo^), and 
Substance {ova-la) ; on Hegel, however, as is well 
known, these conceptions exercised a great influence. 

Aristotle's theory of life is pure Vitalism, and I 
may call it primitive or naive Vitalism, for it arose 
from an entirely impartial contemplation of life's 
phenomena, and not as the result of struggle against 
other doctrines. Only very rarely, as in the remark 
that heat and cold do not yet make a sword, can 
a careful observer see that Aristotle was so much as 
aware of rival views : ^ yet we know he was opposed 

^ In liis De Anima he once attacks the view of Demoeritus 
that the soul must be moved in space because it can move. 
There are, he says, four kinds of movement ((cij'jjo-is) and not 
only movement in space : the other three are qualitative change, 
growth, and decay. Moreover, it is not necessary for that which 
moves to be moved itself. 


by materialists of the Democritean school and that 
Epicurus' teaching at a later date was responsible 
for yet other such adversaries. Perhaps Aristotle 
thought that the firm foundation of his theory or 
facts contrasted sufficiently with the airy hypotheses 
of the Democritean school to absolve him from the 
necessity of a detailed refutation. 

Towards the end of the De Generations Animalium, 
Aristotle summarises what differentiates his con- 
cept of nature from that of his opponents. We 
may appropriately introduce the passage at this 
point, for it also summarises in concise language his 
vitalistic theory — his view about the autonomy of life : 

" In the works of nature which conform to order 
and to law individual things do not possess their 
proper character in virtue of the fact that they have 
had such and such qualities from the beginning : it 
is rather because they are specifically such as they 
are that they are produced with such qualities. 
Their origin and development is determined by their 
essence {ovtria) and are for the sake of that essence : 
the essence does not depend on the origin. The old 
nature-philosophers {(pvcrtoXoyoi) were of the opposite 
opinion, because they failed to recognise that there 
are several kinds of cause : they only knew the 
material cause and the efficient cause, and even 
these not according to their difference, and left out 
of consideration the formal and final causes." 

Modern philosophy can, however, borrow from the 
system of Democritus the concept of necessity in 
nature on which Aristotle does not lay sufficient 
stress — though the dogmas of the materialistic school 
may seem to us of no value. 


The importance of Aristotle's bio-theoretical system 
cannot be overestimated. Although basing himself 
upon Plato, he rejected his influence in respect of 
natural science in its narrower sense, owing to his 
greater logical precision : in his conception of " Ente- 
lechy " he created the link between idea and reality 
which is lacking in Plato ; and this creation was just 
what the theoretical investigation of nature required. 
In biological, as in so many other matters, Aristotle 
is the authority till right into the middle of the 
eighteenth century, and for many right on into the 
middle of the nineteenth century. In the following 
considerations we shall meet with his views again 
and again under various forms. 

The fact that our modern standards enable us to 
say : Aristotle " asserts " more than he proves, 
naturally does not weaken his influence upon a 
period which did not lay much stress upon verifica- 
tion. And we, who are proud of our insistence upon 
rigorous demonstration, and whose inteUectual con- 
science has reached so high a degree of refinement — 
we, too, shall come to see at the end of this book 
that Aristotle's assertions have at any rate been 
justified by recent research. 



The real and fundamental difference between 
ancient and modern science is the habit, which 
began with Galileo, of quantitative and analj^ic 
thought about natural processes ; or one might also 
attribute it to the acquisition of the conception of 
natural law which dominates modern thought. 

The ancients, it is true, knew of single quantitative 
relations in nature, such as the principle of the lever 
and the concept of specific gravity ; but those were 
isolated instances : geometry alone among sciences 
connected with nature (I do not say " natural " 
sciences) was developed in a complete and general 

We have the well-known description in the excel- 
lent works of Diihring and Mach how the great dis- 
covery of the law of falling bodies was followed by a 
constant sequence of further contributions, all of 
real importance for the understanding of natural 
law ; until, through the great systematiser Newton, 
there was effected a synthesis of aU that had been 
hitherto attained. But all that had been attained 
was mechanics, both in the broad and narrow sense 


— an insight into potential and existing motions and 
equilibria of masses. 

It is not surprising that so proud and victorious 
an advance in a sphere of knowledge which at that 
time was the sphere of knowledge, should have exer- 
cised its influence on the totality of all thought 
connected in any way with nature, and therefore on 
a great part of philosophy. Aristotle also had 
been particularly influenced by that special sphere 
with which he was most directly connected, that 
is by biology, although neither his method of in- 
vestigation nor his information conform to the more 
exacting claims of to-day. 

Thus, with the great phflosophers of the Renais- 
sance, the whole theory of nature is under the 
influence of mechanics, and is mechanical ; and 
the theory of life also becomes mechanical. 

In this book we need take philosophy into account 
not for its own sake, but only in so far as it reflects 
actual scientific thought. It wiU therefore suffice 
for our purpose (aU the more because we are writing 
a history of Vitalism and not of the contrary theory) 
to remark that both Descartes and Leibnitz adopted 
a mechanistic view of hfe. 

Nature as a whole, including the physical processes 
of life in the broadest sense, is for both a mechanical 
system, arranged by God. The spiritual, which they 
do not count with nature, is of course for them 
something thoroughly different, and therefore they 
are not metaphysical materialist ; and Leibnitz 
particularly is at great pains to establish clearly the 
relation between the two great divisions of Being. 
But as far as nature itself, life included, is concerned, 


Descartes and Leibnitz and their followers behaved 
like materialists. Only in man, according to I>es- 
cartes, is the mechanical causality of nature broken 
by the soul, but with Leibnitz there is not even a 
question (to use modern terminology) of a " psycho- 
physical causality." 

Such opposition as was forthcoming to the mechan- 
istic theories of the philosophers was by no means 
suited to diminish their influence. Colourless 
Aristotelianism, diluted mysticism, inherited from 
the Middle Ages, was all that the supporters of 
Vitalism could bring forward : only thoughts about 
thoughts or about books, not, as with the great 
mechanists, thoughts based on an immediate study 
of nature. Hence one can readily understand how 
mechanism exercised such a deep influence on the 
schools 1 of the so-called latromechanists and latro- 
chemists ; it was at least clear, one knew what it 
stood for, whereas all that one got out of J. B. van 
Helmont's ^ Archeus, for example, was at best not 
more than an inferior edition of Aristotle's teaching 
about the soul. 

As we have mentioned Helmont, a few words with 
regard to his personal views on the matter may be 
introduced here. 

The fact that he professes to cast Aristotle aside, 
calling him ridiculous and ignorant (ridiculus and 

iBorelli (1608-1679), Hales (1678-1761), etc. Particulars in 
vol. ii. of CI. Bernard's work mentioned in the preface. Also 
Boerhaave (1668-1738), whose Institutiones medicae (1708, 27th 
edition, Leiden 1721), a very important work, in that its general 
atmosphere is one of sober fact rather than of mere theory. 

' 1577-1644. Chief worlv, Ortus Medicinae. New edition by 
his son : Amsterdam, 1652. 


naturae ignarus), need not affect our judgment : the 
finished form, the end, cannot be an effective cause, 
says the modern author in his zeal against the master 
of antiquity. 1 Aristotle of course would never have 
suggested such a thing. His conception of the elSoi, 
which appears as " forma " in Helmont, was too 
much of a refinement for the latter's mental 
capacity. The elSo? is the absolutely and eternally 
real, but, in respect of each single realisation, it 
is the possible : as indeed the scholastics were well 

But Helmont believes he is saying something new 
when he introduces his Archeus (against Aristotle) 
as the " smith " (faber) who bears within himself 
the image of what he has produced and what he is 
going to produce, and arranges the course of develop- 
ment in conformity with those images. ^ This is 
really and unmistakably the Aristotelian teaching — 
only less profound. 

The fact, moreover, that Helmont is completely 
under the spell of Hebrew- Christian dogma and 
tradition (Paradise and Hell are constantly mentioned 
in his discussions), does not exactly enhance the 

' " Nam in primis, cvia omnis causa . . . causato sit prior : 
certe, forma compositi caiisa esse nequit produoti : sed potius 
Enteleohia ultima generationis, ipsissimaque generati essentia, 
atque periectio." The word " Entelechy " is here very imper- 
fectly understood. " Forma enim, cum sit generationis finis, non 
est mere actios generationis : sed generati." 

^ " Quidqmd enim Aristoteles tribuit formae, sive perfectioni 
postremae, in scena rerum, id proprie, directive et exsecutive 
competit . . . Archeo seminali." " lUe inquam faber, generati 
imaginem habet, ad cujus initium, destinationes rerum agendarum 
componit. Constat Archeus vero, ex connexione vitalis aurae, 
velut materiae, cum imagine seminali, quae est interior nucleus 
spiritualis, foecunditatem seminis continens." 


value of his teaching as compared with that of the 
unfettered Greek. 

Not until the reappearance of a physiology and a 
theory of development independently founded on 
observation, and to a certain extent experimental, 
are the great problems of biology treated in a 
manner worthy of closer discussion, and removed 
from scholastic and materialistic dogma. The 
reader will perhaps object to the word " indepen- 
dently " after having read the following sections 
dealing with Harvey and Stahl ; to such a degree 
does everything remain dependent upon Aristotle's 
authority. Nevertheless, it is always new facts with 
which they are dealing and about which they are 
thinking, and their method is one which makes an 
honest endeavour to win clearer views from a study 
of the actual objects or ideas in question. 

(ii) HARVEY. 

William Harvey (1578-1657), the discajgerer of the 
circulation of the blood, and the champion ~o{ "the 
famous " omne vivum ex ovo " brings forward in 
his book Exercitationes de generatione animalium ^ 
a large number of theoretical considerations con- 
cerning the nature of the process of development 
which had forced themselves upon him in the course 
of his observations. 

We have already been warned by His not to look 
for anything too modern in the " omne vivum " 
phrase : Harvey was by no means opposed to the 
theory of spontaneous generation ; which on the 
contrary he adopted for worms, insects, etc. His 

1 London, 1651. 


phrase is only intended to mean that if there 
are germs, their nature is uniform throughout the 
organic world, and is merely opposed to Aristotle's 
division of all germs into " eggs " and " worms." 

But this is not our chief concern. It is Harvey's 
theory of conception that is of capital importance. 
It occurs " per contagium aliquod " as a kind of in- 
fection, just as illnesses occur ; but in opposition to 
Aristotle, Harvey holds that both father and mother 
play an essentially active part, that the function of 
the latter is not only to supply the material. 

Conception, as is weU known, is called " conceptio," 
just as the spontaneous appearance of series of 
thoughts is called " conception." This is completely 
justified : " sunt ambae immateriales " : neither of 
the " conceptiones " are material, in fact the uterus 
is in a way parallel to the brain. 

It seems here as though Harvey had been led 
astray through a mere form of words, through the 
use of the word conception in two meanings without 
further reference to its theoretical consequences. 
The " aura seminalis " of later times is a true 
offspring of Harvey's theory of generation. 

The egg which results from this process, and which 
is ready for development, is a singular object ; it is 
in every respect a " medium quid," a mean, both 
between " principium et finis " and between the 
sexes, between the animate and the inanimate, and 
between matter and something that has in itself 
constructive capacity. It is not exactly a part 
of the mother, but lives on her through its own 
life as a fungus on a tree (propria sua vita). It is 
a " corpus naturale " but a natural body endowed 


with soul, though not animated by the mother's 
soul ; it is not " opus uteri " but " opus animae," 
the product not of the uterus but of the soul. 

We recognise here both dependence on Aristotle 
and an earnest struggle for clearness in the subject 
itself ; Harvey looks, specially in matters of actual 
fact, with great respect back on his teacher Fabrioius 
ab Aquapendente. 

Before delineating the actual phenomena of 
development, he expressly ascribes to the egg the 
Aristotelian " anima vegetativa," " actu," the 
" anima sensitiva," " potentia." 

The development itself occurs " potius per epi- 
genesin quam per metamorphosin," rather through 
new — than through trans-formation (to anglicise the 
Graeco-Latin words which have become technical 

The development occurs as though under the 
direction of an " opifex " i.e. a master builder ; there 
is a certain " principium " in the germ cells, out 
of which and from A^'hich (ex quo et a quo) they 
issue. This principle could be called " primordium 
vegetale," something in itself existing and capable 
of taking on different forms. ^ 

All this goes little further than Aristotle and is 
very indefinite. Harvey penetrates far deeper when 
he tries to lay down the differences between his 
" principium " and the conscious soul whose 
" higher " faculties he endeavoured to characterise. 
Certain of these characterisations closely resemble 

' " Liceat hoc nobis primordium vegetale nominare ; nempe 
substantiam quandam corpoream, vitam habentem potentia ; 
vel quoddam per se existens, quod aptum sit, in vegetativam 
formam ab intemo prinoipio operante mutari." 


views, which we find expressed much later by 
Johannes Miiller : 

That which is indigenous and innate (connatum 
et insitum) in the principle of nature, man has to 
learn ; he, therefore, who with no further remark 
compares natural bodies with productions of art, 
is not a competent judge (aequus aestimator) of 

Harvey tries to improve matters with the words 
" deus sive natura naturans sive anima mundi " ; 
and he ends by saying, in an almost epistemological 
form, that it only appears to our thinking (con-~ 
ceptui nostro) as if there were intelligence in the 
objects of nature, because we judge the divine 
works of nature accordingly to our capacities.^ 

Harvey is not a Vitalist in the interests of a pre- 
conceived theory any more than Aristotle ; he 
wishes to put into words what he has found out 
about nature through experience ; and obviously 
this to him takes the form of a peculiar vital auto- 
nomy. ^ He proves just as little as his great precursor, 

1 " Quoniam igitur in pulli fabrioa ars et providentia non minus 
elueescunt, quam in hominis ac totius mundi creatione, necesse 
esse fatemur, in generatione hominis, causam efficientem ipso 
homine superiorem et praestantiorem dari. — Nam, quod in nobis 
operationum artificialium principium est, intelleetus aut pro- 
videntia, id in naturalibus acquisitum. Ideoque, ad artificialia 
qui respiciunt, haud aequi rerum naturalium aestimatores 
habendi sunt. — Fatendum est in naturae operibus nee prudentiam 
nee artificium neque intelleetum inesse ; sed ita solum videri 
conceptui nostro, qui secundum artes nostras et facultates de 
rebus naturae divinis iudioamus." 

2 According to His, Harvey's teleology was rather indefinite 
and metaphysical than conceived as real, and would consequentlj' 
be similar to the views of the later Philosophers of Nature. I 
find myself unable to subscribe to this view, however, and on 


but he struggles with deep earnestness after a more 
and more complete conception and exposition of the 
unveiled mysteries. 

Harvey's theoretical conclusions did not have any 
great influence ; and yet they are more critical and 
more cautious than the views of that successor 
who was considered during almost a whole century 
as the authority in matters vitalistic, and whom we 
shall now introduce. 

(iii) GEORG ERNEST STAHL (1660-1734). 

The originator of the phlogiston-theory in Che- 
mistry worked for many years as professor in Halle. 
In his Theoria medica vera} he imparts his views on 
life in general — views which be it said at once do 
not strike one as at all modern, and which we shall 
treat at some length only because of their great 
influence. Almost everj? writer on biology until 
the end of the Age of Enlightenment can be con- 
sidered from the point of view of his relation to 

Stahl starts with a logical examination of the 
concepts organism and mechanism and the difference 
between them ; the latter, he says, is subordinate 
to the former. Mixture and life (mixtio et vita) 
differ in the same way, as also " aggregatum et indi- 
viduum " ; the living body has a " mixtio specialis " 
and an " aggregatio specialis " each of a great 

the ground of his " primordium vegetale," " anima vegetativa," 
" opifex," etc., I believe that I am justified in seeing in Harvey a 
true Vitalist, a dynamic teleologist. 

' Second edition, Halle, 17.T7. 


variety. It is just because of its extreme fragility 
that the living body requires special powers of 

Chance (casus) then in the sense of Democritus or 
Epicurus is not a sufficient explanation of a living 
body ; we must start from the everlasting laws, 
" leges aeternae," of the ancients. He rejects any 
machine theory in deliberate opposition to the 
Cartesians " qui corpus humanum machinam abso- 
lutam esse volunt," and who hold that the soul is 
superimposed on the body (superinduci), as it were 
for purposes of contemplation only. 

The real conscious soul is the first cause of life. 
It is a threefold being (ens triplex), that is to say, 
an active, moving, reasoning being (ens activum, 
movens et intelligens), and creates the body, because 
it needs an " instrumentum." Therefore, only 
because of and through the soul, and for no other 
reason, does the organism exist ; ^ the soul however 
works upon the body by means of its passions 
(pathemata). The soul without the body would 
be impotent, both passively and actively. It? 
peculiar activity however is motion, directed and 
coordinated (motus, quos derigit et instruit). 

If at this point we suspend our description for a 
moment, the " soul," according to Stahl's view, 
appears as the fundamental principle both of the 
origin of the body and also of all its functions. It 
is, in modern terminology, the subject matter of 

' " Non soliim corpus simpliciter propter animam humanam, 
rationalem inquam, existere necessario oportet, sed etiam 
absolute propter nullam aliam rem." " Anima rationalis non 
solum corpori huie in est, sed etiam et per illud agit sentiendo, 
et in illud agit, motus locales producendo." 


functional physiology and of the physiology of 

Stahl knows very well that in ascribing all those 
activities to the reasonable soul, to the " anima 
rationalis " he is entering into disagreement with 
most other physiologists. In addition to the 
" anima rationalis," Aristole had allowed the 
" anima vegetativa " and the " anima sensitiva " ; to 
the last two he ascribes a certain " yvwa-i^," ^ to 
the first alone does he grant " intellectus." Helmont 
on the other hand, spoke of a soul with higher and 
lower faculties, and this was moreover " plausi- 
bilis " because whoever can do much can also do 
little (" quod qui potest plus, potest etiam minus "). 
But on the whole all these inquiries are " steriles," 
and superfluous into the bargain : one can manage 
quite well with the " anima rationalis " alone. 

Quite untenable is the objection that the reason- 
able soul cannot set anything in motion because it 
is immaterial : and in any case the difficulty, suppos- 
ing it to exist, is not removed by mediating factors ; 
because they too are either material or immaterial, 
so that at some point of the chain that transition 
would have to take place. 

Perhaps it could be urged that the reasonable 
soul has no knowledge or record of the vegetative 
functions (conscientia, recordatio et memoria) ; but 
Stahl destroys this objection also, first by means of 

^ " Ipsa anima et strait sibi corpus, ita ut ipsius usibus quibus 
solis servit, aptum sit, et regit illud ipsum, actuat, movet, direete 
atque immediate, sine alterivis moventis interventu aut con- 

' Stahl uses the Greek word which means something such as 
" instinctive knowledge," 


a " scholastic " ^ investigation (in a bad sense) and 
then by a process of argument far less objectionable 
and almost modern, saying that when the soul 
thinks or compares it does not know exactly what it 
is doing, and that the act of remembering is as 
such unconscious ; ^ precisely the same may be 
stated about the will, which does not reaUy act with 
consciousness. Therefore, the fact that the soul 
is ignorant of anjrthing does not disprove a causal 

There is after these fundamental statements no 
special interest in following Stahl's more detailed 
treatment, because with him single facts and their 
explanation hardly come into consideration : and 
only on what he says about the question of develop- 
ment of form need a few words be added. 

It is an unnecessary multiplication of fictions 
(supervacuae multiplicationes rerum fictitiarum) to 
ascribe a " vis plastica " or a " spiritus genitalis " 
to the sperm, because the reasoning soul is sufficient 
for all ; for the rest, the fact of maternal impressions 
is decisive in favour of the soul. What remains 
doubtful is the question, how the parent soul can 

' He distinguishes the concepts X670! and X67i(r/io! : \6yo! = 
" intellectus simplex, simpliciorum, imprimis autem subtilissi- 
morum " ; Xiytcrjuos = " ratiooinatio atque comparatio plurium 
et insuper quidem per crassissimas circumstantias sensibiles, 
\'isibiles et tangibiles notorum." 

^ " Imo altius cogitandum est, quod etiam in ipsis adeo ipsius 
rationis absolute propriis actibus, eorumque specifica et formali 
suprema determinatione constituenda, anima neque ratio - 
conseientiam, saltem quod hoc agat, ne dum memoriam sive 
quomodo hoc egerit, quod tamen agit, habeat. Quotus quisque 
enim, aut quoties, cogitat quod cogitet ? Quis hominum ratione 
adsequitur, quomodo cogitet ? Ne dum ut huius meminerit, 
quomodo factum sit ? " 



at all be related to a body in process of formation 
and foreign to it. Now the soul is related not only 
to the " corpus formatum " but also to the " corpus 
formandum," not only to the formed body but also 
to that which is to be formed — and whoever is not 
satisfied with this explanation may propose some- 
thing better. 

The necessary dividing up of the soul is quite 
conceivable, because its functions, namely the 
movements, are divisible. ^ 

I think the reader will not be unfair in describing 
these statements as " sterUes et otiosae quaestiones," 
at any rate Stahl's treatment of the question is rather 
" empty and idle." 

Before leaving Stahl, we wiU record his valuable 
reflection that it is not the mother's blood that 
creates the embryo, and will also give our author 
the chance once more to sum up his views. 

" Propterea vero haec toties repetenda sunt, ut 
memori utique mente haereant, quod primae undique 
partes perpetuo sint actionum, minime vero materia- 
rum : at actionum quidem minime in materus, sed 
in materias : adeo ut hae ad illas simpliciter passive, 
et generaliter indifferenter sese habeant et omnino 
activae dispositioni atque coaptationi in quamlibet 
structuram atque figuram pure obsequantur. Quod 

Or as freely translated : "It cannot be too often 
repeated that the basis of Life consists of activity 
not matter ; and of activity not in matter but 
operating on it in such a manner that the matter 

* " Cum motus sit res adeo divisibilis, etiam movens -sideri 
potest diviaibile." 


remains purely passive and indifferent, and merely 
obeys the activity which distributes and orders it 
in a given structure." 

Had such a theory really any claim to exercise 
an influence over so many decades ? Can we detect 
any advance however small on the biological views 
of Aristotle — and must we not rather admit an actual 
retrogression. Philosophy, in Stahl's day, was 
just awakening to the need for a critical theory of 
knowledge, and in view of this fact is not the episte- 
mological framework of the whole unnecessarily 
confused ? Certainly the fact that he was able to 
found a " school " must be ascribed to a large 
extent to the external authority which his name 
acquired as that of a professor who had long exer- 
cised a wide influence in his official capacity. That 
he was filled with a sense of his own importance is 
clear from the tone which pervades all his work, 
and from which nothing is further removed than the 
spirit of scientific research : for he is essentially 
a dogmatist, and scrupulously neglects everything 
which is in any way inconvenient to his theories. 

Yet the effect of Stahl's book can also be under- 
stood without reference to such influences, even 
though it is wanting in those positive foundations 
which give such stabihty to Harvey's theories. It 
is the magnitude of his whole conception which 
strikes us in reading Stahl ; and his prevision of all 
logical consequences arising out of his views though 
such consequences especially when they threaten 
difficulties are often very summarUy dealt with. 
The whole structure was, in point of theory of know- 
ledge, not so clear as it ought to have been or indeed 


could have been, but it was at least free from 
mysticism. It was after aU something very different 
from van Helmont's phantasies. 

Stahl gave us the first great scientific system of 
theoretical biology after Aristotle ; and as such a 
real system, as a logically constructed edifice, it 
had more influence than earlier efforts, similar to it 
but more phantastic (van Helmont) ; more influence 
than contemporary constructions with a better 
epistemological foundation but conceived in a 
meaner style (Harvey); more influraice, finally, than 
contemporary systems of a weaker kind,^ with 
which it had to compete. 

I doubt whether all those who later speak of 
Stahl have read the Theoria vera. He was known 
as a kind of type. I have never found anything 
quoted out of him. 

Stahl's is an " Animist," not a " Vitalist " if 
we draw a distinction here : yet the difference was 
quickly lost sight of, and in the school of Mont- 
pellier,^ where Stahl's influence was specially great, 
there were to be found Vitalists of every degree. 

And now we shall consider some scientific theories 
where matters of fact play a more important part 
than in what we have described so far. 

• The originator of such a theory was, for instance, B. F. 
Hoffmann (1660-1742): " Philosophia corporis humani vivi et 
sani," 1718, Opiiscula medico-practica, Halle, 1736. 

* For details see Claude Bernard, II. 



It is pre-eminently the discovery of a large number 
of new facts that gives to the history of biology at 
the close of the seventeenth century its peculiar 
character ; and as a result of these very facts new 
problems and new theories came into existence. 
Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) had discovered the 
spermatozoa;^ Swammerdam (1637-1680) and 
Malpighi (1628-1694) and others had brought to 
light a multitude of facts bearing upon the embry- 
ology of chickens, frogs and insects ; Bonnet (1720- 
1793), Needham (1713-1781), Haller (1708-1777), 
Wolff (1733-1794), extended and developed these 
considerably; Reaumur (1683-1757), Trembley (1700- 
1784), and SpaUanzani (1729-1799), discovered 
the power of regeneration in animals, chiefly 
through experiments made upon fresh-water 
polyps and worms. Any further treatment of 
these discoveries belongs to a general history of 

It is the theories that were matured by the 
discoveries which interest us ; but these theories 

1 Or rather they were discovered under his direction. The 
student Hamm was actually the first to see them. 


are connected with the formiilation of certain 
problems, of which three rose into pre-eminence : 
the question of the laws regulating the embryology 
of the organism, the question of the laws which 
govern regeneration, and the question of the origin of 
the germ. The last question includes the problems 
of generation, and of so-called heredity, and also 
that of so-called " spontaneous " generation. 

The theories, or attempts at a solution of these 
problems, group themselves in the following logical 

Development can take place either on the ground 
of a pre-existence of the form in the germ (in which 
case it is only growth of something already existing), 
or it is the construction of something differentiated 
out of something more or less undifferentiated. This 
division gives us, to begin with, the comprehensive 
fundamental concepts of evolution and epigenesis. 

Now the conception of evolution may be confined 
to the actual development from the germ, whereas 
the genesis of the germ itself is regarded as a new 
formation, as epigenesis ; or on the other hand, all 
new formation may be denied. The theory of 
evolution then becomes the theory of " emboite- 
ment," and it is asserted that all germs boxed up 
in each other have pre-existed ever since the creation. 
Here again a division takes place on the ground 
as to whether the male or the female contribution 
to the germ is the bearer of this enclosed element. 
We thus get the two schools of the " Animalculists " 
and the " Ovulists." 

Epigenesis, on the other hand, may be thought of 
not only as new formation of something organised 


out of that which is absolutely devoid of order, but 
also as the new formation of the highly organised 
out of an organisation of a lower order. 

This last concept leads us on to modern views ; 
it reconciles to a certain extent evolution and epi- 
genesis. But it was just this concept which was the 
last to be adopted by the older thinkers with whom 
we are here concerned. Hence, we must beware 
of attributing to them ideas which are familiar 
enough to us. The mere fact that for them the con- 
ception of epigenesis, at any rate to begin with, is in- 
variably connected with the conviction of the reality 
of spontaneous generation warns us to be careful. 

The more important investigators distribute them- 
selves as follows among the various possible views 
which we have distinguished. 

Swammerdam, Malpighi, Bonnet, Haller, Spallan- 
zani and others are evolutionists in the strictest and 
broadest sense, and " Ovulists " too ; Leeuwenhoek, 
Hartsoeker and others, of whom Leibnitz is one, are 
" Animalculists." Needham and Maupertuis are 
thorough-going supporters of epigenesis, and so is 
Buffon for the genesis of the germ, though an 
evolutionist as regards its development. Wolff and 
Blumenbach may be reckoned the chief representa- 
tives of an improved epigenesis ; and with them we 
reach the threshold of a new period. 

All believers in epigenesis are Vitalists, and it is 
just for this reason that the whole controversy is 
of such great importance to us. And yet with 
regard to their theoretical position a few only of 
the writers we have named can be considered of 
any importance ; and some of the most eminent 


of the observers and experimenters, curiously all 
evolutionists, are the least conspicuous for the 
independence of their theorising. Such are Swam- 
merdam, Leeuwenhoek, Spallanzani, Reaumur, 
Trembley and others. 

We shall now endeavour to gain a somewhat 
closer acquaintance with scientists of theoretical 
importance during this period. 


In his famous Histoire Naturelle ^ George Louis 
Leclerc Buffon submitted the processes of generation 
and development to a searching analysis, and we 
have already pointed out how to a certain extent 
this analysis led him into both the opposed camps. 

A tree, a polyp, in short all organisms which have 
the power of readjusting their structure or of 
multiplying by means of buds, are to be thought of as 
consisting of nothing but small parts from which 
they may spring again. These parts are as it were 
the organisms themselves on a small scale, just 
as the single crystals of a cube of salt are the cube 
itself in miniature. In those organisms which 
are deprived of the power of budding and of regene- 
ration, the germs at any rate are such wholes in minia- 
ture. All growth is thus only the putting together 
of simUar parts already present according to their 
nature ; the tree is already in the grain. 

This is orthodox evolutionism. But no\A' the 

question arises for Buffon : are all future grains 

contained in that grain ? He answers this question 

in the negative — to invent a theory which on the 

1 Paris, 1749. 


one hand makes him a Vitahst, and on the other 
bears a certain degree of resemblance to Darwin's 
famous theory of Pangenesis.^ 

It is an " inner form," a " moule interne," 
which, already representing the whole as manifold, 
directs its development, i.e. the mere growth, and 
imparts order to the newly-set substance. This 
order arises " from the arrangement of all the parts 
of the inner form." 

What is the origin of this " moule interne " ? 
It does not lie in some other pre-existing form — that 
would be absurd ; it is the result of peculiar forces 
which are due to the element of life itself. It is 
interesting to note that Buffon ascribes to these 
forces that ordered juxtaposition of molecules which 
arises from the ordered nature of the inner form ; 
so that his own evolutionistic theory of development, 
is also not properly a " machine theory." 

But the forces of which the " moule interne " 
is the result, act in such a way as to appropriate to 
themselves all superfluities from the material which 
promotes growth ^ and collect it in a specific order 
in the genital organs ; here lies the analogy with 
the theory of pangenesis. Like all our author's 
views which refer to the physiology of nutrition, 
the details of the account remain more or less 
obscure. At any rate the origin of the germs is 

' It should be noticed here that the ancient view, rejected 
already by Aristotle, according to which the seed has its origin 
in the whole body, was a precursor of Darwin's theory. 

- He sees in the spermatozoa superfluous particles forming 
the " moule " : they would themselves severally be neither able 
to develop nor to generate, and in any case they are not, as 
Leeuwenhoek would have them, preformed animals. 


here interpreted in a truly vitalistic sense, and we 
have already briefly noted that Buffon, in spite of 
his evolutionistic theory of development, allows that 
the formation of the germs is effected by peculiarly 
vital forces. 

In order to justify his position Buffon chiefly 
combats the Cartesian theory : it seemed to him " a 
vain and baseless procedure to refuse to attribute 
to matter any properties outside those which we 
have already discovered it to possess." The " moule 
interne " is therefore a force quite as specific as 

Here Buiion is clearly on quite modern paths ; 
and in general he discusses scientific methodology with 
so much acumen that I camiot refrain from quoting : 

" Le defaut de la philosophic d'Aristote etoit 
d'employer comme tous les effets particuliers, celui 
de celle de Descartes est de ne vouloir employer 
comme causes, qu'un petit nombre d'effets generaux, 
en dormant I'exclusion a tout le reste. II me semble 
que la phUosophie sans defaut seroit celle ou Ton 
n'employeroit pour causes que les effets generaux 
mais ou Ton chercheroit en meme temps a en aug- 
menter le nombre, en tachant de generaliser les 
effets particuliers." 

Buffon lays stress upon the fact that he in no way 
intends by his postulation of a special life-force to 
cast any doubt on the fundamental principles of 
mechanics, which do but describe the universal 
workings of nature. 

We shall I think meet with general agreement if 
in summing up our critique of Buffon's achievemeiM . . 
we judge the methodological justification ( is 


Vitalism more important than the Vitalism itself. 
Vitalism he did not even try to prove by way of 
trial, but the fact that Buffon did try to demonstrate 
its scientific legitimacy raises a naive into a conscious 
theory. Where Buffon is greater than Stahl (though 
the latter's analytic leaves Buffon far behind) is 
in the fact that he deliberately affirms : I am saying 
something new compared with the mechanistic 
theory, but / have the right to say it. 

Buffon's influence was profound : and in particular 
we find among his disciples two writers who 
endeavoured to pass beyond their master in the 
development of their own theories— the President 
of the Academy of Berlin, Maupertuis, known 
chiefly because of his mechanic " principle of least 
resistance," and the English Jesuit, Needham. 

Maupertuis laid down his views upon organic 
formation in his work Venus physique (1746). He 
tries to establish a parallel between organic formation 
and phenomena of crystallisation, and in particular 
the case of the "arbor Dianae," which played a great 
part in the literature of that time ; there is an 
ordering force even in the product resulting from 
the mixture of the male and female elements, and 
this force decides the right combination of the parts 
and later on maintains them in their growth. The 
whole theory is clearly a variant on that of Buffon. 

Turherville Needham ^ even expressly emphasises 
his agreement with Buffon's theories. Yet, Need- 

1 NouveUes observations microscopiques, avec des dicouvertes 
interessantes sur la com/position et la decomposition des corps 
organises, Paris, 1750. Especially the section beginning : 
" Observ. nouv. sur la generation, la composition et la decom- 
position des substances animales et vegetales." 


ham's chief interest is directed towards something 
other than these theories, namely, towards a 
spontaneous generation from decomposed organic 
substances. From its alleged existence he draws 
all proofs that there is in nature a " force reelle 
productrice," " une force vegetale dans chaque 
point microscopique de matiere vegetale ou animale." 
The fact that at the same time he denies the " germes 
preexistens " in actual propagation, certainly results 
from his general view, but in matters of detail he as 
good as neglects properly morphogenetic problems 
altogether. He emphasises even more than BufEon 
the irreducible, or the vitalistic, element of the 

Needham regards his view as compatible with the 
general principles of mechanics, and he gives us 
particularly disquisitions on matter and mechanics. 
There too a great deal strikes us as very modern : 
" La matiere n'est qu'un pur phenomene, un resultat 
complexe et un concours de plusieurs effets differens." 

Needham declares the intelligent soul to be some- 
thing entirely difEerent from the formative forces of 

We are hardly inclined to see any real progress 
in his achievements as a whole. ^ 


Caspar Friedrich IFo(£f (1733-1794) is usually looked 
upon as the father of epigenetic descriptive embryo- 

• His in his Kiirperfortn (pp. 221, 222) refers to various passages 
in Needham 's works ; we read how Eve was formed by a sort 
of budding, and learn that Needham discussed with his Jesuit 
colleague, Spallanzani, the claims of evolution and epigenesis 
from the point of view of orthodoxy. 


logy. We meet with this opinion especially in the 
historical sketches of materialistic Darwinians, and 
WolfE is there sometimes claimed as a precursor 
of Darwin. This fact shows that it has not always 
been made clear that his theory of development was 
not only epigenetic, but, like all epigenetic theories, 
also vitalistic ; that is why WolfE interests us here. 

His Theoria Oenerationis appeared in 1759 ; in 
1896 Samassa arranged a German translation of 
the Latin original. 

The system of predelineation or preformation, 
says Wolff, does not explain but rather denies 
development. The chief thing is to deduce the 
" parts of the body and the manner of their struc- 
ture " from principles and laws. Such a theory of 
development or " rational anatomy " would be 
related to descriptive anatomy like rational to 
empirical psychology, or like philosophic and his- 
torical knowledge. 

This LS profound and extremely promising ; it 
shows that the conception of something like our 
modern " physiology of development " was vaguely 
before Wolff's mind. 

Wolff then enters into a discussion of the principal 
question : — " How are life and machine connected 
in organic bodies ? " Are they both dependent 
on one common cause, or on one another ; and 
if the latter, is life productive of mechanism or 
vice versa ? 

The case of plant physiology is first adduced. The 
force which drives water into the plant "cannot be an 
attractive force onlj^ " ; this " is proved by transpira- 
tion." Nor is the absorption of moisture dependent 


on the saturation of the atmosphere and its expansion 
through heat ; the fact that the moisture goes 
first to the younger parts and the buds speaks 
against it : " Nature does not build up things of 
such importance upon so changeable and uncertain 
a basis." 

Hence Wolff constructs a peculiar vital force which 
he caUs vis essentialis : this force is endowed with 
qualities corresponding to the work required ; "it 
is sufficient for the purpose in view," " in any case 
it produces the effects in question." 

Similar inferences can be drawn from the study 
of animal development so greatly advanced by 
Wolff. The main problem is : how does the nutritive 
matter of the egg pass into the embryo ? This 
happens not through a contraction of the heart or 
of the vessels, nor through a compression of the 
heart by means of an outer contraction of the 
muscles, for at first the heart is not connected 
with the arteries and does not even beat ; nor are 
there any preformed canals to be found. So there 
is again a peculiar force, a " vis essentialis," at 
work ; it directs the epigenesis, as later on it wUl 
direct the conservation of the mature body. 

Of great interest is Wolff's idea that his " vis 
essentialis " can unite in a common work with the 
agents of the inorganic, and the ^\•ay in which this 
is imagined : there again we see him proceeding 
entirely like a modern. 

The main point first of all is the greater or less 
" tenacity " and " capacity for solidification " of 
the parts directed by the new force ; and this force 
itself can be weaker or stronger ; on tlie whole quite 


a number of " accessory principles " can be added 
to the vital principle, for it is " clear, that with the 
formation of the organic a body in general is also 
formed, and this body is constituted an organic body 
through special additional influences." 

An organic body requires " influences " from 
outside, as, for instance, the addition of nourish- 
ment. But we must remember that " those pro- 
cesses whose removal causes the cessation of life 
cannot be described as vital processes ; " any more 
than the thread which supports a sword over a 
man's head is a vital process. 

We may therefore sum up the results, and answer 
our main question : " the bodies impHed in develop- 
ment are not machines." " We must carefully 
distinguish the growing substance from the machine 
which envelops it. But the machine must be 
regarded as its product." 

Yet the developing substance works " as far as 
it is endowed with certain qualities," not " as far 
as it is constructed in a certain way." " Only 
accessory " is every event in the organism which is 
determined by its composition. It may influence or 
modifj' " but it does not belong to the causes which 
determine the development." Here we have a 
static or tectonic teleology expressly rejected in favour 
of a dynamic teleology, of a Vitalism ; and it could 
not be done in more simple language. 

Wolff then reaches a short settlement with his 
opponents and with those whose views resemble 
his own. 

It cannot surprise us that he calls " mechanical 
medicine " an " imaginary system," one, that is, to 


which nothing in the nature of things corresponds. 
Much of course is executed by the machine, as, 
for instance, the circulation of blood, breathing, 
excretion, and mastication ; but these mechanical 
events are only a " small appendage of the animal," 
and are to be distinguished from the animal itself. 

Wolff thinks his view related to those of the 
botanist Ludwig, and of Harvey and Needham 
the chief representatives of an epigenetic Vitalism, 
though he caUs the latter's book " intolerably con- 
fused," and though he admits that they all (apart 
from Harvey's curious " conception- theory " ) do 
not go beyond the most general theses established 
by Aristotle — that there is a generating power in 
nature. He appears to consider that his theory 
resembles most closely that of Stahl. 

This remark appears strange, when we remember 
that Stahl speaks clearly about the operations of 
the rational soul ; and we might doubt whether 
Wolff knew Stahl's work directly or only through 
hearsay. He does not give any particulars, and 
never once mentions even the title. ^ 

Wolii concludes his book with an idea which 
sounds not less modern than that with which he 
began it : he had " not explained anything " in 
respect of the effects whose mechanical nature he 
denies. He had only " investigated the connexion 
which exists between machine and life," but " had 
not investigated any further the causes of the 

* Dr. Stenta in his Italian translation of this work, has brought 
forward evidence (pp. 379-383) which tends to show that Wolff 
may after all not have regarded Stahl's views as so similar to his 
own. — Trans. 


latter where it has no relation to machine." This 
at once recalls the language of Mach. 

If we consider aU that has been said, we find that 
Wolff is the clearest and deepest representative of 
Vitalism since Aristotle ; he at least tries to prove, 
though certainly his proofs are open to objection. 
He possesses great knowledge, great philosophical 
training ; he does not talk of what he does not 
know ; he is not satisfied with pseudo- solutions. 
His theory is not so all-embracing as that of Stahl : 
and hence it is more important biologically. 


We have already mentioned that Swammerdam 
is the real originator of the idea of evolution in the 
sense defined above : but in Bonnet and Haller we 
have two of the thinkers whose work was of out- 
standing importance for the completion of the 
theory. All evolutionists are, by the nature of 
things, strenuous advocates of a static teleology, of 
a tectonic foundation for the purposive. For them 
Vitalism plays only a secondary part. They are 
therefore of less importance for our purpose, and we 
cannot devote so much space to their views as we 
did to those of the supporters of epigenesis. 

Charles Bonnet has chiefly explained his views in 
his work Gonsiddrations sur les corps organises 
(Amsterdam, 1762). ^ The real reason why he crossed 
over into the evolutionist camp must have been his 

' C. O. Whitman's splendid monograph on Bonnet's teaching 
may be recommended here : " Bonnet's Theory of Evolution. 
A System of Negations." Both this and the same author's "The 
Palingenesia and the Germ Doctrine of Bonnet" may be found 
in the Biological Lectures, Woods Hall, for 1894. Boston, 1895. 



discovery of the parthenogenetic development of plant- 
lice : there are, in fact, several generations in series 
lying hidden one within another, for the eggs of 
embryos already begin to develop : and here nature 
presents to the eye that very " emboitement " de- 
manded by theory. 

" II n'est point dans la nature de veritable genera- 
tion ; mais nous nommons improprement Generation 
le commencement d'un developpement qui nous rend 
visible ce que nous ne pouvions auparavant aperce- 
voir." The essence of the whole theory of evolu- 
tion is expressed in these words ; with good right 
has C. F. Wolff caUed it a negation, not an explana- 
tion of development. 

Bonnet, the " Ovulist," lays particular stress on 
the fact that the germ must exist in the egg as a 
perfectly formed being before fertilisation ; and he 
is critical enough to admit that the theory would 
break down if the opposite were proved. But this 
opposite is not proved : " il est demontre que le 
Poulet existe dans I'oeuf avant la Fecondation." 

Certainly no exact pre-existence of all proportions 
of the germ must be supposed : " Tandis que le 
Poulet est encore dans I'etat de Germe, toutes ses 
Parties ont des formes, des proportions, des situa- 
tions qui different extremement de ceUes que 
I'Evolution leur fera revetir. Cela va au point, que 
si nous pouvions voir ce Germe en grand, tel qu'U 
est en petit, il nous seroit impossible de le reconnoitre 
pour un Poulet " ; and for mammals and man the 
same holds good.^ 

• " L'homme et les Quadrupedes, dans I'^tat- de Gterme, ont 
sans doute aussi des formes et des situations qui ne ressemblent 
nullement d. celles qu'ils acquierrent par le developpement." 


In any case, alterations of form bears only on the 
external : the essential is extended only during the 
course of " development." Bonnet says in one 
place that the germ possesses only the character of 
species but not of individual ; it is a horse but not 
this horse. 

Not even a finger ought to be accepted as a real 
new formation ; this he had said before Haller, who 
repeats it though he was as yet a behever in 
epigenesis. We may be misled into imagining 
the existence of a new formation because the 
different parts develop with different degrees of 

Bonnet hardly thinks it worth while to enter into 
discussions with his opponents ; Buffon's views are 
discussed with a brief and sweeping characterisation 
as " des songes qui ne sont pas mSme philosophiques." 

This is not the place to discuss the cosmic views 
found iQ Bonnet's PaliyigdvAsie : 

" Toutes les pieces de I'Univers sont done Con- 
temporaines. La Volonte Efiicace a realise par un 
seul acte tout ce qui pouvait I'etre." 

Its chief idea is that there is really no new forma- 
tion in nature. The detaUs may be learned from 
Whitman, who also deals with Bonnet's views re- 
garding the relations subsisting between the theory 
of evolution and the idea of resurrection. ^ We 
hear of the various kinds of germs required by the 
soul for the pre-Adamic, the present, and the future 
world ; everything is treated on the analogy of the 
metamorphosis of insects. There are also hints of 

1 The belief in resurrection seems to have been the psycho- 
logical starting point of the whole of Bonnet's theoretical work. 


theory of descent (preformed of course) : monkeys 
will perhaps one day generate the Newtons and 
Leibnitzes, beavers the Vaubans. 

It is more to our purpose instead of wasting time 
on such phantasies to examine in greater detail the 
way in which Bonnet conceived the process of 
development through extension ; but what we are 
told is only that the germ has very narrow meshes 
between its simple parts, and that later on foreign 
elements introduced by the process of nutrition 
extend these meshes. " Le Germe n'est, pour ainsi 
dire, compose que d'une suite de points, qui formeront 
dans la suite des lignes." 

Though Bormet evades many a difficulty, he 
never neglected the task of throwing hght on at 
any rate the most important obscurities in his 
theory that came to his notice. The results of 
experiments on regeneration must have caused 
special doubts — Trembley's experiments on Hydra, 
for instance : here it is said that Hydra is merely 
a repetition of numerous minute polyp-germs, 
which are only waiting for favourable circumstances 
in order to develop. Only the question where the 
souls for the many polyp-buds would come from 
seems really difficult to Bonnet. He allows only 
germs of complete organisms to serve as explanation 
for processes of real regeneration and, not like 
Weismann in recent years, of parts of the organism ; 
the preformed complete germs are arranged in such 
a way that they extend themselves in each par- 
ticular case only so far as to replace the part that is 

Thus Bonnet makes no use of active vital forces 


of any kind — at any rate he believes that he does 
not need any. A given structure, combined with 
very simple modes of action, effects everything. 
Hence Bonnet is not a Vitalist. For the rest it is 
very odd how he sees no other solution than either 
tectonic teleology, or a wild sort of mechanical epi- 
genesis. He does not perceive the possibility of an 
enlightened Vitalism in some such sense as Wolff's. 
It may perhaps be objected that an investigator 
whose work makes so much use of soul as Bonnet 
ought to be designated as Vitalist. But we can 
make the general answer, as often before, by indicat- 
ing that the soul (corresponding to Aristotle's voO?). 
is regarded by all thinkers in an age when the 
theory of knowledge was still so confused, as 
something not belonging to nature. The soul is a 
counterpart of nature, not a part of it ; both are 
apprehended as absolute realities. Here we see 
the great influence of the philosophy of Descartes 
and Leibnitz. 

Swammerdarn was the first to announce, and 
Bonnet the founder of, the theory of evolution ; but 
Haller is its real systematiser. 

Albert Haller (1708-1777), the well-known savant 
and poet, can best serve as the typical representative 
of the theory of preformation ; almost the whole 
of the eighth volume of his comprehensive Elementa 
Physiologiae corporis humani ^ is devoted to it and 
to discussions of a general nature. But we do not 
find with him such a profound exposition or such 

' Bern, 1766 : I write Albert, not Albreoht, as Haller himself 
says " Albertus " in the title of the book. 


an effort for clearness, as with Bonnet. Every- 
thing is treated more dogmatically, although 
not in Stahl's way. Perhaps it is to this 
very circumstance, perhaps also his authoritative 
position as professor, that we must attribute his 

But even if Haller does not appear to us an 
entirely original thinker, it would yet be a great 
mistake to see in him the short-sighted fanatic 
depicted in historical sketches of the materialist 
Darwinian school. Already His has rightly em- 
phasised this. When condemning HaUer it is usual 
to refer to a rather superficial poem by Goethe : 
but it is at least doubtful if it is not possible to dis- 
tinguish something like the " kernel " and the 
" shell " in nature, and if he who sees only the shell 
ought not to be described as the more fortunate. 
In any case, Haller was not less misrepresented than 
Wolfl: when his chief concern, his Vitalism, his 
rejection of the machine-theory, was (one is tempted 
to say) caenogenetically suppressed. 

No thinker of that time paid so much attention 
to the views of his opponents as Haller ; in per- 
fectly conscious opposition to these views (which 
failed to convince him) he became an evolutionist : 
for, as we remarked above, he began as an adherent 
of the epigenetic school'. 

Haller seeks to present actual facts, and rejects 
hypothesis in an almost Newtonian maimer : 
" Hypothesin nuUam admisi," " Hypotheseos neque 
umbra subest." No shadow of an hypothesis should 
therefore be found in his works, but in point of fact 
the wish is very far from being realised. 


His objection to Wolff's " vis essentialis " ^ is 
that it gives no answer to the question why in any 
given species that force maintains the type, and on 
the other hand creates so many different types ; 
whereas the inorganic matter can take any possible 
shape. We shaU certainly reply to HaUer that in all 
branches of natural science there is much that must 
be simply accepted, and that his objection can be 
well turned against himself. 

Buffon, moreover, he says, knows so little about 
his " modulus interior," that some people have 
already said that a seventh sense is needed to 
understand him.- 

But blind powers cannot, as Cartesians and 
mechanists vnsh, create anything harmonious out 
of disharmony, — an assertion which Descartes at 
any rate, to whom nature was something ordered 
once and for aU, could hardly have made. 

The organising activity of Stahl's " soul," as a 
purely conscious spiritual power, is only poorly 
proved through " monstra " and the like. 

The one remaining possibility is that the embryo 
is already there when conception takes place.* 

' " Cur vis ea essentiaJis, quae sit unica, tam diversas in 
animale partes semper eodem loco, semper ad eundem arche- 
typum struit, si materies inorganica mutabilis et ad omnem 
figuram recipiendam apta est ? Nulla datur responsio." 

^ " Et primum, quid sit modulus interior ? adeo non inteUigunt 
clarissimi viri, ut ipsi fateantur, septimo sensu nos egere, ut 
inteUigamus." Very much to the point is the objection urged 
against BufEon that full grown animals often no longer possess 
such organs (e.g. larval organs in the case of frogs and insects) 
or do not yet possess them (e.g. the beard) — and nevertheless they 
are inherited. 

^ " Superest id unieimi ut fetus structus et fabricatus sit, 
quando conceptio accessit." 


" Nulla est epigenesis " : there is no new forma- 

In this way Haller accepts Bonnet's views : God 
has created all structures ; they do not develop but 
only grow ; no one part is built before another ; 
are all there simultaneously : " NuUa igitur in cor- 
pore animali pars ante aliam facta est et omnes 
simul creatae existunt." 

The subject of the hydra and the phenomena of 
regeneration Haller disposes of similarly to Bormet : 
only the part taken by the male element which 
appears to be superfluous gives him some diffi- 
culty : it probabljf contributes to the growth of 
certain parts. ^ We cannot here consider his dis- 
quisitions about the formation of hybrids, which 
are of course entirely hypothetical. 

Everything is thus settled : if the fetus is already 
enclosed in the egg and only nourishment is needed 
to make it grow, then we have solved the paramount 
difficulty of the construction of a highly artificial 
fabric out of raw matter.^ 

Matter, then, ordered but invisible, develops into 
matter ordered and visible ; ^ this must be so, and 
the fact that some people do not observe it proves 

^ " Spero ostensurum me, esse in semine masculo \dm, quae 
certarum partimn corporis animalis incrementum promoveat et 
fcamen fundamentum futuri animalis a matre esse." 

^ " Si in matre est primordium fetus, si id structiuii in ovo est 
et hactenus periectum ut unice recepto alimento egeat, ex quo 
convalescat, soluta est ilia summa difficultas artificiosissimae 
fabricae ex bruta materia struendae." 

' " Si viscera paulatim de statu invisibili prodire visa sunt, non 
ex bruta materie in conspicuam, sed ex male limitata in melius 
terminatam transiisse adnotavi." 


Again we have the clearest expression of a machine 
theory, of a static teleology — of anything but 
Vitalism : and naturally enough, since Haller fails 
to enlighten us with regard to those factors deter- 
mining growth which he, too, is of course forced to 
assume. It remains obscure how far Haller meant 
to indicate something of the nature of autonomous 
forces in those physiological principles — especially 
irritability ^ and contractabUity, which, though not 
originated by him, are very thoroughly discussed in 
his works ; they could only serve as general con- 
necting concepts. 

We are not here called upon to deal with Spallan- 
zani, the prominent experimenter, who put forward 
no original theory, following Bonnet and HaUer in 
all general questions ; and the same applies to many 
other writers of repute. 


With J. F. Blumenbach (1752-1840) the old 
Vitalism reaches its height, and with him this second 
period on which we are entering comes to an end. 
The third stage which foUows Kant and the Nature- 
philosophy produced no work to rival the lucidity 
of Blumenbach's exposition. 

Blumenbach profits by all the good qualities of 
his predecessors and avoids their errors ; coming at 
the end of the fierce strife about epigenesis and 
evolution, and subjecting all the arguments on both 
sides to a comprehensive critique, he learnt one 
quite definite lesson of controversy — that it was 
essential to reflect once more with an open mind 

1 This principle is due to Glissou (1596-1677). 


on the actual biological data. He thus reaches 
something which at least looks like a real " proof," 
and thus eventually takes a step beyond the point 
reached by Aristotle. 

Blumenbach expounded his views in two works 
of no great length : the Institutiones physiologicae 
(Gottingen, 1787) and the work Uier den Bildungs- 
trieb (Gottingen, 1789). The latter, by the way, is 
the first work in German in this field. The Institu- 
tiones give us a good opportunity of examining more 
closely Haller's theory of the fundamental physio- 
logical functions which we have already had occasion 
to mention. 

Under " vires vitales " Blumenbach enumerates 
in the usual way Contractability, Irritability, Sensi- 
bility : they are the fundamental physiological phe- 
nomena, which, together with the " vita propria," 
the specific vital activity of the parts, condition the 
work of the functions. 

Blumenbach, like Haller, does not say more about 
the nature of these powers, and it remains undecided 
whether he saw there an autonomy of vital activities 
or not. 

Besides the above forces we have another forma- 
tive force — the " nisus formativus " — directing mor- 
phogenesis, conserving the organic form by means 
of nutriment, and restoring it after mutilation ; it 
is a power peculiar to living bodies : " peculiaris 
vis corporibus organicis vivis connata et quamdiu 
vivunt perpetuo actua et efficax." It is called 
" nisus " because it is logically subordinated to the 
" vires," to the forces in a general sense, as one 
" vis vitalis " among others. 


All this is very briefly treated : and there is also 
a very brief semblance of a proof of these statements 
to be found in the assertion that the formative 
impulse first comes into being after the mingling 
of the sex-liquids ^ in the uterus ; hence the embryo 
becomes visible, " in spite of the perfection of our 
modern optical instruments," only during the third 

This is not a particularly valuable contribution. 
Of greater importance are two methodological 
remarks in the Institutiones : in the first place a 
certain relation is affirmed between the nisus and 
other nature-agents, on which the figures of Lichten- 
berg and the crystals are based ; and secondly, we 
have the important assertion that the " nisus forma- 
tivus " is less a cause than an " effectus quidam 
perpetuus sibique semper similis " ; it expresses an 
effect ever recurring and ever like itself, and it is in 
this sense and in no other that the words " gravita- 
tion " and " attraction " should be used. 

This view is not only borne out by the facts, but is 
greatly in advance of contemporary thought at any 
rate in biology. 

We find in Blumenbach's work, Uber den Bildungs- 
trieb, an amplified treatment of all the problems 
which in the Institutiones were merely outlined : we 
have in fact a real system of Vitalism. 

The treatise contains a good introductory his- 
torical sketch ; then comes a note on the author's 

'■ According to Blumenbach the spermatozoa are only " little 
worms in stagnant liquid." Their miimportant nature can be 
seen by the fact that in animals which resemble one another the 
spermatozoa are often very different, while in animals which 
differ widely they are often almost identical. 


own position, that he himself had formerly been an 
adherent of evolution, and had consequently gone 
through a process of development directly opposite 
to that of Haller. So this book contains " the 
confession of his own errors " ; but " a corrected 
error often becomes a truth far more important 
than many a positive truth directly recognised as 
such " (De Luc). 

Blumenbach then repeats the definition of the 
formative impulse already given ; he emphasises 
again that this principle stands by the side of the 
" other kinds of vital force " and next to the 
" general physical forces of nature." There follows 
a further explanation of that admirable methodo- 
logical observation with regard to the parallel 
between formative impulse and gravity. Both 
should serve to denote nothing else but the defini- 
tion of a force whose constant effect has been 
recognised through experience ; but whose cause, 
like the cause of the generally recognised powers of 
nature, is for us a " qualitas occulta." 

We cannot insist enough on the value of this 
critical passage. If only all Vitalists had been con- 
scious of the necessity of similar exactitude there 
would have been no need for the later criticisms and 
rejections of the theory by a Lotze or a Claude 
Bernard — justified as that criticism may have been 
in view of the actual situation. 

To emphasise the quality of Blumenbach's insight, 
we have only to remember how these same laws 
were conceived by his contemporary, X. Bichat 
(1771-1802), who did valuable work in histology 
and pathology. Bichat, who died young, sup- 


ported a vitalistic theory, which it may be observed 
he failed to prove, andVhich was in no way based 
on the facts of morphogenesis. He also claimed to 
place his " proprietes vitales " on the same level as 
" gravite, elasticite," etc. Here is a passage taken in 
extenso from the first volume of his Anatomie 
genirale,^ which will best show the contrast : 

" Les lois physiques sont constantes, in variables ; 
elles ne sont sujettes ni a augmenter ni a diminuer. 
Dans aucun cas une pierre ne gravite avec plus de 
force vers la terre qu'a I'ordinaire." " La formule 
etant une fois trouvee, il ne s'agit que d'en faire 
I'application a tous les cas." ... " Au contraire, 
a chaque instant la sensibihte, la contractUite 
s'exaltent, s'abaissent et s'alterent ; elles ne sont 
presque jamais les memes." " Toutes les fonctions 
vitales sont susceptibles d'une foule de varietes. 
EUes sortent frequemment de leur degre naturel (!) ; 
elles echappent a toute espece de calcul ; il fau- 
droit presque autant de formules, que de cas qui 
se presentent. On ne peut rien prevoir, rien pre- 
dire, rien calculer, dans leurs phenomenes. Que 
deviendroit de monde, si les lois physiques etoient 
sujettes aux memes agitations, aux memes varia- 
tions que lois vitales ? " 

A peculiar idea of the essence of natural law. 

And yet Bichat makes many valuable contribu- 
tions, as for instance his separation of the " pro- 
prietes vitales " from the " proprietes de tissu " ; 
the latter are conditioned only by structure and Ln 
conjunction with the former produce the " vita 

^ Paris, 1801. Compare also Recherches phyaiologiques sur 
la me et la mart, fourth edition, Paris, 1822. 


propria." There is also his description of animal 
chemistry as " I'anatomie cadaverique des fluides " 
and its exclusion from true physiology ; and his 
demand that science shall " remonter des pheno- 
menes aux principes, et ne pas descendre des prin- 
cipes aux phenomenes," etc. 

But Bichat's writings display a lack of that 
essential methodological principle, the recognition of 
the absolute rigidity of natural law in vital phe- 
nomena : and it is precisely when contrasted with 
a biologist whose service to science is so universally 
admitted that Blumenbach's importance is most 
clearly brought into relief. 

Returning then to the German thinker. A brief 
reference not entirely to the point is made to Wolff, 
whose " vis essentialis " really only supplies nutritive 
matter, and thus is only " a requisite " of the form- 
ative impulse. 1 It is followed by a section on his 
adversary Haller, couched in terms of the greatest 
respect. Blumenbach then passes to the proofs of 
his own theory. The following phenomena speak 
against " preformation " and for " epigenesis " : 
of primary importance are the galls ; then the 
formation of new blood-vessels round encapsuled 
tumours and foreign matter ; thirdly, the formation 
of new joints after fractures ; further, the appear- 
ance of hybrids, which evolutionists recognise as a 
difficulty for their theory ; finally, simple observa- 
tion. During the course of development new 
formations are still taking place, and these are con- 

• It comes into evidence, however, in the case of tumours ; 
on the other hand it is not found in instances of bad nourishment, 
in spite of the presence of a formative impulse. Here Blumen- 
bach obviously misunderstands Wolff. 


tained, as form, in the germ as little as the arbor 
Dianae in silver-amalgam. 

Blumenbach refers particularly to the history of 
the development of algae and the buds of Hydra. 

To be quite strict, these things prove only epi- 
genesis, not vital autonomy, as our author imagines. 
The conception of the formative impulse of growth, 
the conception of the inner structure is foreign to 
him ; as a real proof for Vitalism we must adduce 
the fact that formation of organism cannot be under- 
stood at all on the ground of a given minute structure 
whose parts influence each other. Blumenbach's 
proofs, however, were the best at his disposal in 
that age. 

His theory is rendered the more profound by 
notes on " reproduction," i.e. restitution in our 
terminology : the new matter arises out of the old, 
as with Hydra the regenerating stem becomes 
smaller ; the same is true in the healing of large 
wounds. An attempt had been made to solve the 
difficulty by assuming pre-existing germs, but that 
is unsatisfactory with phenomena of grafting or 
when a Hydra, which has been slit from top to 
bottom, closes itseK by rolling up the edges of the 
wound, or by forming a new digestive cavity. 

We must strictly differentiate that kind of repro- 
duction where new matter is produced, from that 
where " only the disturbed formation has to be re- 
built " : a reproduction which must be differentiated 
and separated from the others the more carefully, 
the less they can be compared with the hypothetical 
germs, and the greater the predominance which they 
give to the theory of a formative impulse. 


We might imagine here that we were listening to 
a debate on physiology of development in the 
nineties of the last century. Blumenbach is prior 
both to Roux and to the author of this book in a 
very important matter ; namely, in the establish- 
ment of the conception of restitution that is not 
true " regulation." ^ 

And then comes a thought for which Blumenbach 
can claim priority over Gustav Wolff. How, he 
asks, can everything be preformed in healing and 
similar phenomena in view of their casual nature ? 
" It would be presumptuous to try to persuade 
anyone of such a thing." Such is in its clearest 
form the conception of " primary purposiveness," 
which is used both by Blumenbach and G. WolS 
against preformation and in favour of the vitalistic 

Compared with the above the details which Blu- 
menbach gives as to the mode of action of his 
formative impulse are naturally of a very indefinite 
and preliminary nature, and of much less import- 
ance : and at the most we need record his view 
that even malformations follow special laws, although 
here external causes disturb the results of the forma- 
tive impulse. 

Thus we find ourselves at the end of the second 
period of the old Vitalism and, as we have already 
mentioned, at its height. If we compare the 
beginning and the end of this period, i.e. Harvey 
and Stahl on one hand and C. Pr. Wolff and Blumen- 

' Under " Regeneration " we only understand the separation 
of damaged parts by " sprouting " from tlie wounded surface. 


bach on the other, we are struck by one thing : 
biology, which used to be an appendage of philosophy, 
borrowing its principles ready from existing philo- 
sophical dogmas (and almost all philosophy was 
dogmatic then) — ^biology changes into a science, 
clearly and firmly based. Only now, at the end of 
the second period, do we get beyond the achieve- 
ments of Aristotle. This is due to C. Fr. Wolff — 
and above all to Blumenbach. 


The task we have set before us is not to write a 
history of philosophy, nor even to indicate in the 
systems of various philosophers what this one or 
that may have thought about biological questions. 
Only when a philosophical doctrine has exercised a 
lasting influence upon the current Biology have we 
briefly drawn attention to it. This occurred first 
with regard to the teachiag of Descartes ; the second 
case of it wOl be in connexion with the theories of 
the Nature-Philosophers and of Schopenhauer. 

If we make an exception in the case of Kant, and 
analyse his Critique of Judgment with particular 
thoroughness, our reason will be the extraordinary 
and far-reaching influence which this book has exerted 
up to the present day. It is not that I imagine 
any too many of our modern scientists to have read 
Kant's works ; I know, on the contrary, that only 
too few have done so. But everyone has heard 
about them from someone else, who also has heard 
about them ; and so everyone expresses his opinion 
on the subject. It is time that an abuse so un- 
worthy of modern thought was stopped, and we 
hope to contribute at least something towards its 

KANT 67 

In itself and apart from its fundamental and 
unique significance, Kant's work would not require 
such a close analysis in a book devoted to the 
history of scientific doctrine. We may indeed pre- 
face our whole treatment of the work by emphasising 
the following important consideration : it would be 
a great mistake to suppose that the object which 
Kant had in view in writing his Critique of Judgment 
was the analysis of biological questions. Nor yet 
was it the real aim of his book to establish the pro- 
position (complementary to his Critique of Reason) 
that the existence of a personal Creator is not a 
valid inference from the purposiveness of nature. 

At the beginning and at the end of the book it is 
clearly stated what Kant's real intention was : — The 
world of nature and the world of freedom are two 
separate worlds, which in themselves have no 
influence upon each other ; but the world of free- 
dom is meant, especially in human moral activities, 
to gain influence over the other world. Hence 
nature must be so conceived as to make this possible. 
There must be a reason for the unity of the Super- 
sensual which is at the basis of nature and of the 
concept of freedom. This reason, or ground, is the 
notion of design. 

The object of the Critique is therefore ethical, not 

Man as noumenon is free. In this moral capacity 
he is the highest purpose. His causality alone is 
teleological in the world. At the same time, how- 
ever, the law by which he determines purposes is 
conceived by him as independent of natural condi- 
tions and yet as necessary. 


Teleology then must reconcile nature and morality. 

What this means — whether it is possible at all, 
and whether it is possible in this Kantian form — 
with these questions we have in this book absolutely 
no concern ; but we must know what was Kant's 
intention if we do not wish entirely to misjudge his 

A distinguished authority ^ has characterised 
Kant's Critique of Judgment as the best of his works. 
We do not wish to correct this judgment in so far 
as the work as a whole is considered in relation to 
the Kantian system. But where the contents of 
the third Critique concern us more nearly with 
regard to the specific development of a Critique of 
teleological Judgment, we cannot join in the above 

The exposition of this theme is widely removed 
from the clearness of the Critique of Reason, especi- 
ally compared with the first half of the earlier work. 
Perpetual repetitions, due in part to a pecuhar 
architechnic rigidity, weary the reader without 
clarifying the exposition. The final conclusion 
with regard to the biological problem itself remains 
doubtful, or at any rate is not quite unambiguously 
established. Hence, representatives of completely 
different biological views have been able to construe 
Kant's book to their own advantage for the most 
part, as we have said above, without any very 
thorough examination of his teaching. — 

Judgment is the faculty of thinking, the particular 
as contained under the universal. Judgment is 

' W. Windelband, Immanuel Kant und seine Welianschammg. 
Heidelberg, 1904. 

■ KANT 69 

determining when we subsume under the given 
universal ; it is reflecting when we seek the universal 
for the given particular. If the sum of the data of 
external experience is to be submitted to the 
reflecting judgment, then we shall require a prin- 
ciple which is not borrowed from experience, but 
which is supplied by the reflecting judgment itself. 
Now there is one such principle, and it declares that 
nature is to be regarded from the point of view of 
a unity as if an understanding had adapted it to 
our powers of cognition. But this implies a law 
only for the reflecting judgment, not for nature. 

Purpose is the concept of an Object in so far as it 
also contains the ground of the actuality of the 
Object. Purposiveness of the form of a thing is its 
agreement with that constitution of things which is 
only possible according to purposes. The pur- 
posiveness of nature is therefore that principle of 
the reflecting judgment : and it is a transcendental 

The maxims — Nature takes the shortest way {lex 
■parsimoniae) ; at the same time it makes no leaps 
{lex continui) ; its great variety in empirical laws is 
yet unity under a few principles, etc. ; are illustra- 
tions 2 of what has been said. In all these cases it 
is not stated how we do judge, but how we ought 
to judge. 

A sharp distinction must be drawn between the 
general laws of the uniformity of nature which are 

1 Hence no Category. 

2 The first example clearly has a different character from the 
other two : it relates to causality, to the law of change, while 
the two last relate to the tectonic of nature. Kant himself, as 
our exposition will shortly prove, draws this distinction. 


known a priori, and the specification of those laws 
according to the principle of purposiveness. Ac- 
cording to what has been said, the variety of nature 
corresponds to our requirements in respect to its 
tectonic, not in respect to its general laws ; hence, 
it is the discovery of the former, not the knowledge 
of the latter, which is the ground of pleasure.^ 

The aesthetic judgment judges formal purposive- 
ness by the feelings of pleasure and pain ; the 
teleological judgment judges real purposiveness 
through understanding and reason. The first judges 
by a rule, but not by concepts ; the second is the 
reflective judgment in general, and judges, like all 
knowledge, by concepts, but only in respect of certain 
objects of nature according to special principles." 

So much for the introductory explanations. Then 
follows the critique of the aesthetic judgment, which 
does not concern us. It is followed by the Critique 
of the Teleological Judgment — first of all as " Ana- 

The Analytic begins by rejecting once again the 
categorical nature of purpose. There is in the 
general idea of nature no a priori reason why objects 
of nature should be related to each other as means 
and end, nor why its possibility is comprehensible 
only by means of this causality. Teleology is only 
problematically and by analogy brought to bear on 
the investigation of nature without any pretence to 

1 The later Philosophy of Nature proceeds from the concept 
of the " Tectonic of nature." 

' Once more therefore : Teleology is according to Kant not a 

KA2vr 71 

explain it, i.e. only in the sense of reflective judg- 
ment. Thus we have at least a rule a& a principle 
where causahty, as "we shall point out more in 
detail, does not suffice. 

Teleology is thus only a regulative principle of 
judgment ; to regard it as a constitutive principle 
would mean 'introducing into natiu-al science a 
new causality which we borrow from ourselves 
alone, and yet attribute to other beings — ^whom, 
however, we at the same time refuse to regard as 
Kke ourselves."' 

Here we have the first passage in Kant's work 
which is of biological importance, and it must be 
admitted that it is somewhat obscure. The point 
at issue here is not, however, to what in particular 
in nature the conception of purpose may be presumed 
to apply ; so that it is not yet made clear how far 
a new causality would be introduced by allowing 
puiposiveness to be a constitutive principle either 
as creation or as a mode of causality within nature. 
One thing, however, is clearly laid down — ^that we 
borrow this new causahty from ourselves. Since, 
however, '' we " belong to nature, then somewhere 
and somehow this new causality does exist in nature. 

These remarks are only to secure our attention, 
and we now advance a step further. 

After a brief treatment of objective but merely 
formal purposiveness, as for instance that of cer- 
tain geometrical figures in the solution of problems, 
Kant proceeds to deal in order with the following 
subjects : The relative Purposiveness in Xature, 
Thinss as ends of Xature, and Xature as a system 
of ends. 


We can speak of objective and material purposive- 
ness only when there is before us a relation of 
cause and effect " which we find ourselves able to 
apprehend as legitimate only in this — that we intro- 
duce the Idea of the effect into the causality of 
the cause as the fundamental condition of the 
possibility of the effect." Now, such purposiveness 
is relative when it is merely a means to some other 
end as, for instance, river mud to plants. In such a 
case the effect can quite well be understood from the 
cause without reference to teleology. We are dealing 
here with "accidental" purposiveness, mere " advan- 
tage " to one thing through another which, of course, 
has significance only when the existence of that to 
which the advantage accrues is itself a real end of 
nature. The relative purposiveness of the sexes is 
the only instance of any deeper importance. 

At this point I should hke to insist that relative 
purposiveness can be of great significance. For it 
appears to us that the problem is more closely con- 
nected with that of " Nature as a system of Ends " 
than Kant seems to assume. 

Now a thing is inconceivable through the mechan- 
ism of nature. We are therefore obliged to introduce 
a cause whose possibility of efficiency is determined 
by concepts, in a case where the form of the thing 
is not possible by means of the laws of nature alone 
{i.e. of laws which, applied to sensible objects, can 
be cognised by the understanding alone), but when 
" concepts of Reason " come into play. The form 
of such a thing appears to be causally contingent. 

Kant now seeks for an example of this. It would 
occur, for instance, if one were to discover the 

KANT 73 

drawing of a mathematical figure in a desert. The 
chances against meeting with such a thtag would 
be so infinitely great that it would be " just as if no 
law of nature were capable of accounting for it " : 
and one would exclaim " vestigium hominis video." ^ 
The question would be that of an art product. 

We have an " End of nature " when a thing is 
(though in a double sense) both cause and effect of 
itseK. Kant then explains this by a description of 
what we now call embryology or ontogeny, and 
then passes on to a minute analysis : 

For a thing to be an end of nature it must be 
only in relation to the whole that its parts are 
possible, and the parts must be reciprocally cause and 
effect of each other's form. The idea of the whole 
must determine the form and connexion of all the 
parts, " not as a cause — for then it would be an 
artificial product — but as the ground of cognition 
for him who is judging it of the systematic unity 
and combination of all the manifold contained in 
the given material." 

It seems fitting to interpolate here the remark 
that in the sense of a purely descriptive Teleology, 
which takes no account of the laws of nature con- 
trolling natural purposes, Kant's idea may most 
advantageously be considered as an endeavour to 
discover some characteristic of natural objects 

iBiitschli {Verb. Nat. Med. Verein Heidelberg, 7, 1904) has 
rightly, as I think, objected to the " vestigium hominis video " 
that solidified gelatinous solutions also give us regular geometrical 
figures. He need merely have referred to snow flake. On the 
other hand, we must remember that such figures even if they no 
longer are possible only by means of art, are still grouped under 
natural purposes. All crystalline phenomena are thus to be 
considered as not only chemico-physical. 


which necessitates the introduction of a judgment 
of the teleological kind and of the teleological kind 

Kant now discusses at greater length the differ- 
ences between artefacts and natural purposes. In 
the case of the artefact the producing cause lies not 
in the nature of the material, but in a being which 
can produce effects according to ideas. Thus the 
artefact, if it is a machine, has merely moving 
power ; but the organism has in addition formative 
power. Thus organised nature is no " analogon of 
art " — at any rate that would be saying too little. 
It is rather " analogon of life." But in such a con- 
ception we must either endow matter as mere matter 
with an attribute which is opposed to its very nature 
(Hylozoism) or couple with it a foreign principle, 
a soul. In this last case the possible alternatives 
are to give the soul already organised matter as a 
tool, which explauis nothing, or to make the soul 
the artificer of this structure, and thus remove the 
product from (corporeal) nature. 

To be quite exact, then, says Kant, the organisa- 
tion of nature has in it nothing analogous with any 
sort of causality which we know — and this in spite 
of the fact that man acting according to teleological 
causality belongs to nature in the widest sense. 

Natural purposes therefore cannot be explained 
by any causality of nature in its widest sense. The 
concept of a natural purpose is always and only 
regulative for the reflective judgment. We always 
speak "as though" there Ave re something, but do 
not wish to introduce a special ground of causality, 
or to set up any " master-builder " over it aU. 

KANT 75 

Here ends the discussion about things as " ends 
of nature," and it will, I think, be granted that it 
is in a high degree unsatisfactory for biological 
questions proper. 

It might seem at first as though Kant sought to 
make clear the logical nature of judgments of the 
descriptive-teleological kind only. But Kant does 
not here treat biological matters in an exclusively 
descriptive-teleological maimer, since he includes 
man in nature, and allows him, in reference to his 
activity, to be subject to elementary laws of a teleo- 
logical kind, though he does not actually adduce 
any analytic proof for the same. Man is, however, 
a living being, so that for certain phenomena in 
certain living beings Kant is a " Vitalist " according 
to our definition, whether he draws the conclusion 
himself or not. 

After this introductory examination we wonder 
why our philosopher rejects the possibility of a 
universal knowledge of the mode of causality in 
the organic. 

The statement that organic nature is " an analogon 
of life " rather than " an analogon of art " where it 
is precisely life which is being examined, seems at 
first very obscure. Then we find in the Meta- 
physical Principles of Science the following defini- 
tion : As opposed to the inertia of matter which , 
implies lifeiessness. Life means the power of a sub- 
stance to determine on activity by an inner princi- 
ple — the power of a finite substance to determine 
on change, of a material substance to determine on 
movement or rest as a change of itsjtate. The only 
recognised principle of change of a substance is 


desire, and the only known inner activity is thought ; 
these grounds of determination are, however, not 
" representations of the outer senses " and there- 
fore not " determinations of matter as matter." 
Thus, according to Kant, all matter as such is life- 
less ; this and no more is what the law of the inertia 
of matter says. 

If we consider the sense of these words with 
reference to the discussion of natural purposes, then 
the latter might be understood to mean that 
organised nature is no analogon of art, inasmuch as 
it is not organised by something outside itself, is not 
created ; it is rather an analogon of life in the sense 
of that human activity which alone is known to us 
as a fundamental law, and which rests upon desire 
and thought as internal factors. This conception 
makes it clear that matter as mere matter cannot 
" live," at least not in this (the hylozoistical) sense, 
and renders untenable all subsequent life-stuff 
theories with which we shall be concerned.^ On the 
other hand it is not clear why by coupling with 
matter a foreign principle as the artificer of the 
structure, i.e. of organised nature, the product 
would be removed from nature ; for it is on the 
ground of this supposed result that Kant rejects 
any sort of Vitalism. 

Yet he has expressly associated man as an active 
being with nature : and man, he admits, possesses 
teleological causality. 

' Cf. the passage in the Dialectic of the Judgment : " But the 
possibility of a Kving matter is unthinkable ; the concept con- 
tains a contradiction, for hfelessness, inertia, is the essential 
characteristic of matter." Only by a vicious circle, according 
to Kant, can we deduce purposiveness out of the Ufe of matter. 

KANT 77 

Why, then, we would ask in modern phraseology, 
cannot the organised world be explained, or rather 
formulated, at least hypotheticaUy after the analogy 
of this particular, and in the phenomenological 
sense real, causality ? 

It will now be recognised, as we said at the 
beginning, that almost any view could find material 
to support it in the Critique of Judgment, even though 
it comprise what Kant rejects. What Kant rejects 
is : firstly, that organised beings are created 
machines ; secondly, that they derive from a 
peculiar kind of matter ; thirdly, that they are due 
to particular vitalistic laws. To men, however, 
he attributes such special laws. From these three 
negations it would be possible to infer (and the 
inference would harmonise with his conclusion as 
regards the whole of the tectonic world) that he 
reduces organised beings to machines which are 
merely given and whose origin is not a matter for 
investigation. In this case he would be a " static 
teleologist," although the exception made for men 
would still remain. 

But static teleology would still be a positive 
assertion ; something would be affirmed about the 
nature of the purposive, namely, that it is deter- 
mined not according to any laws of its own but by 
a tectonic, though its origin would remain in the 
dark. With static teleology one of the two alter- 
natives would be afiirmed ; Vitalism would be 
denied. But Kant does not wish to assert or to 
deny anything about the laws or organisation, at 
any rate not at this point. At the close of the 
Analj'tic he expressly describes the concept of an 


end of nature as purely regulative, and this in spite 
of the fact which must always be emphasised that 
he reckons men, acting autonomously, as included 
in nature. 

It seems to us that Kant is here to be corrected, 
and that with regard to organisation we should not 
be content with such a descriptive, purely " regula- 
tive " teleology. For in our view there seems 
absolutely no reason why between two clearly 
recognised alternatives of a purely scientific character 
a decision should not be fixed upon empirically. 

But we shall soon come across further obscurities 
in Kant's treatment in yet another form, and 
moreover with a somewhat more definite leaning 
towards Vitalism ; and we may turn briefly in 
conclusion to the considerations on " Nature in 
general as a system of purposes." 

To judge a thing to be on account of its internal 
form a purpose of nature is something quite different 
from regarding the existence of the thing as a purpose 
of nature. To do this last significantly, one would 
have to have knowledge of the ultimate purpose. 
But this is lacking. It is therefore impossible to 
treat the problem at all, and we need only add that 
naturally things which are not purposes of nature 
may also belong to a " System of purposes." 

With this explanation, which from our biological 
point of view is of minor importance, the " Analytic 
of the teleological judgment " comes to an end. 

In the Dialectic of the teleological judgment all 
that has been discussed in the Analytic appears once 
more, only in another form, and always with the 

KANT 79 

conclusion that we are not in a position to prove 
the existence of a Creator by an argument from 
design. The antinomies devised for the sake of the 
schematism of the Critique of Reason are of no 
greater importance, and we can be even briefer 
than we were in our discussion of the Analytic. 

Above all, it must now be clearly recognised that 
the realistic element in the Kantian point of view 
stands out far more clearly in the Critique of Judg- 
ment, and especially in that section of it which now 
interests us, than in the Critique of Reason (especially 
the first edition). Nature is always conceived as 
a reality (ein Reales) which could be other than 
what it appears, and which could work in a manner 
incomprehensible by our understanding. But 
nature is not, according to Kant, that which is 
given, or whose laws would be just such as he had 
formulated, so that " understanding " and " not- 
understanding " woTild not come into the question 
at all. 

We cannot, says Kant, in his realistic vein, 
" prove " the impossibility of the mechanical pro- 
duction of organisms, because we do not under- 
stand the first inner ground of the infinite multiplicity 
of the particular laws. The productive power of 
nature may, however, suffice for what we are to 
judge teleologically just as well as for that which 
we believe to require merely a mechanical system. 
That mechanism can afford no explanation, as far 
as our powers of cognition are concerned, is quite 

What is meant by saying that this " power of 
production in nature will suffice " ? Does Kant 


mean that we have here before us an elementary 
law of nature, but one which cannot be reduced to 
mere processes of movement ? One sees in the 
Metaphysical Principles that Kant, like the mecha- 
nists, requires all physics to be resolved into processes 
of movement. If we were right, then this passage 
should be understood in a vitalistic sense : and the 
opposition of the mechanical character of nature 
to its achievements through a productive power, 
seems to confirm such an interpretation. There 
would be then according to Kant special vital laws 
(Eigengesetze) which, though subject to causality 
could not be resolved into forms of motion and 
were, therefore, in this sense not " explicable." 

But does this meaning agree with what has been 
ascertained above 1 If this were the case one woiild 
be obliged to say that Kant might have expressed 
his thoughts rather more clearly than is the case. 
He must then have meant something else ? 

We shall not here attempt to settle definitely 
what Kant really meant, but one thing we may 
legitimately say, and that is that by introducing 
two dogmatic principles which led him on to illusory 
problems, he rendered his task infinitely more 
difficult, and the solutions of those problems ex- 
tremely confused. One of the dogmatic principles 
is Realism, to which we have already referred ; the 
second the Mechanism of Nature as found in the 
postulate that aU physics is to be reduced to mere 
laws of motion. The fictitious problems arise from 
the nominal proposal to undertake this analysis 
for everything in nature. This, according to Kant, 
is feasible in physics, but obviously not in biology. 

KANT 81 

It is our opinion that chemistry, which he also 
excludes from the sphere of real science, might 
here have supplied Kant with a compromise : and 
we shall see later on that Schopenhauer advanced 
in this direction. 

But, after insisting once more that we do not 
presume to have disposed of all the obscurities in 
Kant's discussions by our remarks, we must seek to 
briag our exposition to an end. 

There follows the often quoted assertion, that no 
Newton can ever appear who ■wUl explain the pro- 
duction of so much as a blade of grass by laws of 
nature which no purpose has ordered. To introduce 
a lighter note for a moment, we may remind our- 
selves in passing that in the opinion of many authors, 
though not in his own, Charles Darwin is supposed 
to have been that Newton ; we may further point 
out that the mention of Newton is very favourable 
to our view, i.e. that in theorising Kant always 
presupposed the necessity of resolving all processes 
of nature into true mechanics. 

The obscurity, however, remains that in this 
passage about Newton : " ordered laws of nature " 
may be understood to mean a given system of 
separate laws (static teleology) as well as laws of 
nature in which order, an ordering element, lies 
(Vitalism). In our opinion, therefore, owing to his 
too narrow interpretation of the concept of mecha- 
nism (always connected for him with the postulate 
of reducing all the events of nature to motion, 
a reduction which is entirely Ulusory precisely in 
the case of living beings) Kant cuts himself off 
from the impartial understanding of biology. It 


is true indeed that to postulate a world-creator as 
the ground for the purposiveness of the world 
would be to " proceed quite tautologically " ; but 
it would also, and this is just the view for which 
the Critique of Reason has prepared the way, be 
an illegitimate logical procedure. On the other 
hand, if because we find purposiveness in occurrences 
in the world we seek to explain this a posteriori by 
referring to a cause operating according to ends, 
our procedure is indeed tautological, hut legitimate 

For in the last resort all explanation is tautology. 
But Kant, in spite of all his Critique, had not suffi- 
ciently grown out of the Cartesian view of nature 
to appreciate this subtle elaboration of a yet more 
refined criticism. 

Kant, then, might be described as a Vitalist who 
himself greatly increased the logical difficulties of 
his doctrine by fictitious problems of his own 

Considerations upon the manner in which mecha- 
nism and teleology are to be united lead up to the 
Methodology of the teleological judgment. Such 
a unification is possible ; but does not lead us to 
substitute one for the other. They are related as 
end and means ; but the law of working (Wirkungs- 
gesetz) of the means requires for itself nothing pre- 
supposing a purpose. 

Now this sounds once more thoroughly staticaUy- 
teleological, and in no wise reminds us of the " pro- 
ductive force of nature " ; we are therefore once 
more in perplexity. In addition to this we read of 

KANT 83 

a primordial organisation of the mechanism of 
nature. But let us proceed. 

The general conclusion of the Methodology, viz. 
that teleology belongs neither to theology nor to 
science, but only to criticism, and to the Critique 
of Judgment in particular, concerns us here less than 
a few corollaries. 

After it has been clearly established that the 
" products and events " of nature must be ex- 
plained, as far as possible mechanistically, the way in 
which mechanism and teleology might possibly be 
unified is examined. " Occasionalism " — ^the view 
that the supreme cause of the world would furnish 
immediately the organic formation on the occasion 
of every union of intermingluig materials — is re- 
jected, as in this case " all nature is lost." The alter- 
native theory, that of Pre-established Harmony, 
assumes that everjrthing is once and for all pre- 

The being produced can now be an " educt," and 
we get the doctrine of Evolution or individual 
pre-formation — ^which Kant rejects. 

Or it is a " product " ; this gives the doctrine of 
Epigenesis, or better of " Generic pre-formation " 
or " Involution." The specific form is also according 
to this view pre-formed, but " virtually," viz. in 
the productive faculty of the generator and in its 
inner purposive capacity. 

Kant adopts Epigenesis : for here propagation, if 
not the first beginning, is established as self-pro- 
ducing (selbst hervorbringend), and consequently 
a great deal is left to nature. 

Indeed he expressly embraces Blumenbach's 


interpretation. Blumenbach, he declares, begins all 
explanation of " organised matter " with an " ori- 
ginal organisation," and calls the power of matter 
to fashion itself on the basis of this organisation a 
formative impulse (Bildungstrieb). 

The reader who has carefully followed our analytic 
exposition of the history of Vitalism wUl be highly 
surprised on reading these words. 

Kant accepts epigenesis, talks of the " productive 
faculty of the generation," asserts his agreement 
with Blumenbach, the Vitalist, and then quotes 
Blumenbach amiss, i.e. expressly in the sense 
of a static teleology which rests upon " original 
organisation," and in words which that writer 
never used himself. 

To sum up everything which has been said in our 
detailed exposition about Kant's attitude to the 
fundamental questions of biology, his doctrine may 
be used in support of the following : 

First, of a purely descriptive and exclusively 
" regulatively judging " teleology which abstains 
on principle from pressing for any more final explana- 
tion : though for this abstention no valid ground is 
adduced ; 

Secondly, of a Vitalism which seems to him 
doubtful only because he is preoccupied with the 
dogma of the ultimate reducibility of all natural 
phenomena to previous phenomena of motion, a 
postulate which, at any rate in reference to living 
beings is quite untenable ; 

Thirdly, of a static teleology, or the theory of a 
given structure on the basis of ^vhich everything 

KANT 85 

happens mechanically. It is true that this view 
is implied more by the letter than by the spirit of 
Kant's phrases. An exception is also made, in a 
vitalistic sense, in the case of man as an active 

Is it possible to find a satisfactory solution of this 
strange enigma, a satisfactory reconciliation of what 
seem at first to be flagrant contradictions in Kant's 
exposition ? By way of an attempt we may put 
forward the two following considerations. 

If we interpret Kant's expressions Organisation 
and Order not in the sense of an extensive tectonic, 
of a structure, of a machine, of a juxtaposition of 
different entities, but only as a specific representa- 
tion, a given ordering principle, then the statements 
about Blumenbach, as well as other passages, could 
be understood in the sense of a pure Vitalism. 
Blumenbach was, after aU, a pronounced Vitalist. 
That Kant should have materially misunderstood 
him seems almost impossible. A certain freedom of 
expression in quoting is, however, not outside the 
realm of probability in the case of a philosopher who 
is accustomed in a large measure to construct his 
own language. 

On the other hand, we suggest the possibility of 
thinking that Kant really did not clearly see the 
distinction between static and dynamic teleology ; 
that for him teleology not only in its formal but also 
in its real meaning is to a certain extent one and 
the same thing, and that in describing it he uses now 
the terms which characterise one sort, now those 
which characterise the other sort of teleology. 
Kant would then be a Vitalist — though not quite 



consistent with himself. If it be remembered that 
the aim of the Critique of Judgment was chiefly ethical, 
and that teleology in general was all that therefore 
really came in for consideration, this view will 
perhaps gain in probability. 

Our final attitude towards the biological content 
of the Critique of Judgment is therefore as follows. 
In the case of man and his actions Kant is indubitably 
a Vitalist, while as regards the facts of organisation 
he is only problematically so. He is not indeed 
always clearly conscious of the logical distinction 
between static and dynamic teleology, and is 
dissatisfied with his own Vitalism because it is 
thoroughly inconsistent with his ideal of what the 
natural sciences should be. This ideal is the mistaken 
notion of a rigorous mechanism in which (curiously 
enough, though we can understand it from an 
historical point of view) there is room for the activity 
of souls though not soul-like natural agencies. 

Throughout, the general critical discussion of his 
contention that teleology can have no metaphysical 
significance proceeds parallel to that of biological 
problems : but the ultimate object of the whole is 
neither biological nor metaphysical but ethical. 

Our conclusion may appear unsatisfactory ; in 
any case we believe we have shown that any biologist 
who wishes to appeal to Kant — either in defence 
of or in opposition to Vitalism — wUl do well to 
proceed with some circumspection. 

KANT 87 

The above reproduces the contents of the original 
chapter on Kant. It has, however, occasionally 
been objected to me ia the course of discussion, 
that I have misunderstood Kant on a rather impor- 
tant point, and the fact of this objection (which 
may in the meantime have appeared in print), causes 
me to supplement what I originally wrote by the 
following remarks. They will not relate to the 
Kritik der Urteilskraft, but to the two other great 
Critiques of the philosopher : 

I am said to be wrong in asserting that Kant 
allows the mechanical (in its exact sense) causality 
of nature to be clearly and indubitably infringed by 
the intervention of the " soul " of the acting man. 
This is the reason why (as I said) Kant, at any rate 
for a limited field of biology, clearly is a Vitahst, a 
dynamic teleologist : for obviously man is part of 
Hving nature. It is replied that the passages cited 
by me merely refer to man as " noumenon," and his 
" freedom." But if considered simply as an event 
of nature, the causality of the acting man is according 
to Kant also mechanical causality in the most 
proper sense. Kant is said to subscribe to what is 
to-day called psycho-physical parallelism. 

I do not think that this view is right. 

Let us begin by analysing some passages in the 
Critique of Pure Reason (first edition). 


In the " Paralogism of Simplicity " an attempt 
is made to show that " simple consciousness " is not 
" knowledge of the simple nature of our conscious 
subject in so far as this is thereby distinguished from 
matter as a composite being." In this connexion 
it is argued that matter is merely external appear- 
ance of whose substratum we can predicate nothing ; 
that this substratum could therefore quite well be 
simple, though it appears to us as extended and 
composite ; and further, that it might even have 
" thoughts." It is true that he goes on : " In this 
way the same object which in a certain respect is 
called an extended body would in another respect 
be a thinking being, etc." But immediately after- 
wards " hypotheses of that sort " are described as 
merely allowable for making argument easier. So 
Kant's own view about the matter which concerns 
us here is not given in this passage at all ; more 
probably it is that of Leibnitz. 

In the general considerations at the end of the 
" Paralogism " the three possible views about the 
" communion between body and soul " are critically 
discussed : the system of " physical influence, of 
pre-established harmony, and of supernatural assist- 
ance." The two latter explanations are in reality 
only objections to imagined difficulties in the first ; 
but they would be without reason — ^for the theory 
of " physical influence " would be metaphysical, 
and here there would be room for all possibilities, 
everything in question being absolutely unknowable. 
It is true that their metaphysical character would 
be a critical (not a dogmatic) objection against the 
doctrine of mutual interaction itseK. So here again 

KANT 89 

we get no factual, but merely a methodical solution. 
The real question of facts has not even been put, 
i.e. if it would be sufficient for understanding the 
changes of what we call nature to suppose a merely 
mechanical causality. 

Let us note in passing, in section 9, iii. of the 
doctrine of " Antinomy," the proposition : " If 
all causality in the world of appearance were merely 
nature . . .," and then turn to those parts of the 
Critique of Pure Reason which are the most important 
for us. They are entitled " The Possibility of 
causality through freedom, in conjunction with the 
general law of natural necessity," and " The explana- 
tion of the cosmological idea of freedom in con- 
junction with the general necessity of nature." 

We will not enter into a discussion of the Antinomy 
between freedom and necessity and its supposed 
solution. We only ask : does Kant regard his 
" necessity " as equivalent to a coherent and merely 
mechanical necessity, or not ? 

Man has a faculty " which is no object of sensuous 
intuition," but which " nevertheless can be the 
cause of phenomena." This causality is in the first 
sense " intelligible," in the second " sensible " ; in 
this second sense, as we have already said, " its 
effect is seen in the phenomenon." It has the 
character of necessity whose law in any individual 
case must be found by experience. The intelligible, 
or " noumenon, begins to act in the world of sense 
spontaneously " : but this does not imply that " its 
effects in the world of sense begin spontaneously," 
for the intelligible is determined for its special way 
of acting on the world of sense by the same world. 


The doctrine of the " empirical and intelligible 
character " which foUows does not concern us here, 
as it is ethical and metaphysical. Let us rather 
ask : is there the smallest sign in aU the above that 
Kant dismisses the intervention of the " soul " in 
the course of natural events, and that he defends 
psycho-physical parallelism with its continuous 
causality in a truly mechanical system ? It appears 
to me that just the opposite is the case. 

Keyserling has tried to establish a general theory 
of life, a pure Vitalism, in a book ^ which is a quaint 
mixture of good and bad, largely influenced by 
Chamberlain ; he remarks that Kant has occasionally 
done the same unconsciously. His " freedom " 
would be a special form of a " law of nature," 
namely, the form of action of the law of nature which 
is man ; and with reference to his faculty of acting 
in general not only in relation to morals. One need 
only extend this principle to the organic in general 
to get a complete theory of life. I beheve that such 
a view is not only right as an analysis of Kant but 
also in itself ; it has much in common with my own 
vitalism, of which Keyserling does not speak. 

A few words more, however, on Kant. 

In the general introduction to the " Analogies of 
Experience " is to be found the important remark 
that these analogies (the principles of the constancy 
of matter, of causality and of mutual reaction) have 
no constitutive but merely regulative force. This 
practically annuls the difference, on which Kant as 
a rule lays very much stress, between the "Analogies" 

1 Das Oefiige der IVelt, Munich, 1906. 

KANT 91 

and Teleology, the object of his Critique of Judg- 

In my judgment, as will soon be explained more 
widely, this would be perfectly right. The whole 
question is important for the logic of any Vitalism. 

From the Critique of Practical Reason some remarks 
can be added similar to those quoted from the 
Critique of Pure Reason, not only on the relation 
of freedom to necessity but also on the possible 
kinds of necessity. The most important passages 
for our question are to be found in the " Critical 
Explanation of the Analytic of Pure Practical 
Reason." Kant affirms e.g. that the determining 
reasons for necessity have " psychological and not 
mechanical causality, i.e. they effect action through 
representations and not by bodily movements." It 
would even be possible to speak of a " mechanism 
of nature " in a quite general sense of a universal 
necessity of aU events, " although this does not mean 
that things subject to this mechanism would have 
to be real material machines." 

Kant, then, is very far from being a dogmatic 
" parallelist," or, to speak only of the physical side 
of the paraUelistic doctrine, a phenomenalistic 
materialist. He leaves much undecided and writes 
very indefinitely. In the Practical Reason especially 
the distinction between, and supposed reconciliation 
of, freedom and necessity is the only thing of 
importance to him : and similarly the Critique 
of Judgment has not reaUy a biological-scientific, but 
a moral end. 

1 See also W. Ernst : " Der ZweckbegriS bei Kant und sein 
Verhaltnis in den Kategorien," Kantstudien, Erganzungshefte 
No. 14, 1908. 


Finally, without any further comment I reproduce 
the following passage from the " Doctrine of Method 
of the Practical Reason " : " The spectacle of a 
countless multitude of worlds dwarfs into insigni- 
ficance my importance as an animal creature which 
must render back to the planet the dust out of which 
it has come, after Jiaving been endoived for a sliort 
time {we know not how) with the force of life." ^ 

That seems to be a clear and unalterable declara- 
tion in favour of Vitalism, going even further than 
the autonomy of mere action, but within the range 
of the universal determination of natural phenomena. 

So I believe that I can justify my chapter on Kant 
in its original form. That it is not entirely satis- 
factory is to be attributed to Kant himself. Kant 
has, as it were, two different notions of causality ; 
firstly, the wide one which is quite compatible with 
Vitalism, " All that happens pre-supposes something 
on which it follows according to a law," and secondly, 
a narrower mechanistic conception in conformity with 
the ideas of his age. All obscurities arise from his 
not having kept these clearly separated. 

I conclude by adding a passage from the Critique 
of Judgment : In section 8 he speaks of the " vis 
locomotiva " of the soul, " because actual motions 
of the body arise, the causes of which are in its (i.e. 
the soul's) representations." That hardly sounds 
" parallelistic." 

1 The italics are mine. Compare the words from Dreams of a 
Spirit Seer : " The principle of life seems to me of immaterial 


The philosophy of nature of ScheUing and Hegel 
probably set out ultimately from the idea of a 
techtonic of peculiarities in nature which would 
suit our " power of judgment." Nature is the 
" idea in its otherness " ; natural objects, especially 
organisms, are as it were solidified manifestations 
of the idea. 

All this is exposition and not explanation : it 
gives us no doctrine of the laws of becoming. In its 
most general aspect, then, the theory is irrelevant 
for biology, especially for Vitalism ; it would accord 
principally with a static and with a dynamic teleology,' 
both of which regard the organic forms as products 
of law in opposition to products of chance. But 
as soon as we try to connect the world of ideas with 
the world of direct data, nature-philosophy enters 
into relation with the problem of Vitalism. The 
relation between pure nature-phUosophy and its 
attendant Vitalism is about the same as between 
Plato and Aristotle. With Plato the hnk between 
idea and reality was wanting, and for us, there- 
fore, he does not come into -consideration ; Aristotle 
established the connexion, and he thus becomes 


important biologically, and this in the direction 
of Vitalism. We shall see that even the biologists, 
setting out from a philosophy of nature of the 
ScheUing-Hegel school, became important in relation 
to Vitalism. Schelling and Hegel themselves have 
not got this importance and do not aspire to it, for 
as we have said they expound but do not explain. 
With reference to the doctrine of real organic 
becoming and its laws ScheUing is anything but 
clear ; he rather shows a continual hesitation 
between vitalistic and teleological-mechanical views, 
though with an inclination to the latter.^ Hegel, 
too, when he describes Ufe as a continuous fight 
against elementary forces of objectivity, ^ has indica- 
tions of a Vitalism, but nothing complete. 

Nature-philosophy coincides on purely scientific 
grounds with the creation of the conception of 
what is called " type," which forms the basis of a 
strictly systematic classification of living beings. 
But we cannot here foUow more closely the history 
of biological systematics in so far as it is occupied 
only with a realistic analysis of types, or in other 
words, in the creation of a system. Further, we 
may refer the reader to the history of the theories of 
biology by Em. Radl, as well as the later essays of 
Rudolph Burckhardt. The investigator of types 
becomes of importance to us only when treating 
the problem of the law by which the type is realised 
for the time being in the individual, or how 

1 See his works : C. Weiss, vol. ii. p. 281 fl:., and Metzger's 
valuable essays " Schelling and the Fundamental Problems of 
Biology " (Archiv /. Oescli. d. Naturw. 2, 1910), and " The 
Epochs of Schelling's Philosophy, 1795-1802," Heidelberg, 1911. 

2 Kleine Logik, ed. Bolland, p. 288 ; cf pp. 220, 268, etc. 


it changes its specificity, if such a change, i.e. a 
descent, is otherwise assumed ; and if, supposing 
it to be assumed, it is treated in a way different 
from the typically materialistic ^ or substantially 

It follows that in our exposition a man like Cuvier 
cannot be more than barely mentioned : for though 
he is " vitalistic " in the fundamental physiological 
questions, he is not independent. This fact is not 
surprising considering the substantially different 
sphere of his work : in general he declare,^ himself 
in agreement with the theories of Bichat. 

Even Goethe's views on the philosophy of nature, 
which, as is well known, deal particularly with the 
concept of " type," but in which the word " en- 
telechy " is also found here and there, cannot 
be more than mentioned here : they have hardly 
meant any discernible progress for the history 
of vitalism. Nor can we do more than refer to 

^ As, for instance, by the Neo -Darwinians. 

^ As such must be reckoned the theory of descent promulgated 
by Jean Lamarck (Philosophie zoologique, Paris, 1809), though it 
contains many valuable ideas. It is a purely fictitious con- 
struction, and no proof is offered. At the foundation of the 
formation of types, Lamarck puts a " law of organisation," which 
he does not define further : use and disuse only make irregular 
the regular stages founded on this law. The question of the 
modus operandi of use and disuse (the effects of which he wrongly 
imagines to be inherited), is left unconsidered by Lamarck : 
otherwise he would have recognised at any rate its teleological 
or adaptive character, as Samuel Butler, August Pauly and other 
" Neo-Lamarckians " have most decidedly done in recent times. 
What he says about organic life in general is unimportant, and 
he confuses condition (heat, electricity) with the essence of the 
matter. For the rest he really admits an autonomy of vital 
processes, and probably only combats the vitalistic theory out 
of dread of introducing supernatural factors ; but his views 
here are far from clear. 


A. V. Humboldt's allegory on vital power, " Der 
rhodische Genius." ^ 

The vitalistic views which we have first to consider 
are unfortunately not calculated exactly to meet 
with the reader's approval. 

(i) OKEN. J 

Lorenz Oken (1779-1851), the great anatomist, 
wrote (like many of his coiifemporaries) a Manual 
of the Philosophy of Nature.^ 

Galvanism is described as the principle of life. 
There is no other vital force, we are told, but galvanic 
polarity. The heterogeneity of the three terrestrial 
elements in a closed individual body is the vital 
power, but of course "it is combined with higher 
actions," and he rejects an elementary vital force 
only when it is described as a " force." His 
thought is anj^hing but clear, and when we hear 
such sentences as, " The Light shines upon water, 
and the water is made salt. The Light shines upon 
salt water and the water lives " — and there are 
many such sentences in the book — then we are likely 
to lose our confidence in the nature of his reasoning 
altogether. Rather than analyse such an idea 
further, we might have done better to examine 
minutely the pre-Aristotelian and medieval bio- 

To a certain extent Oken's book, Die Zeugung ^ 
offers us something better, though at the first glance 

' In Ansichten der Natur, ed. Bolsche (Reclam), pp. 383 ff. 
In the explanatorj' note, however, Humboldt practically with- 
draws the substance of the allegory. A " vital force " is for 
him at any rate problematic. 

2 2nd. Edn., Jena, 1831. => Bamberg and Wiirzburg, 1805. 

OKEN 97 

there is also a propensity towards absurditiea. 
In spite of Spallanzani and his successors, Oken 
rejects the origin of infusoria from germs and 
attributes it to spontaneous generation ; ^ he em- 
phatically proclaims the principle, " Nihil vivum 
ex ovo," etc. 

But then foUows an epigenetic-vitahstic theory of 
generation : The sperm is a putrifying substance, 
the spermatozoa are protozoa arising from it ; at 
fecundation the sperm (in this sense) unites itself 
with the " feminine vesicle," and as soon as this has 
happened the embryo is ready. The spermatozoa 
have " taken form " in the feminine vesicle. 

" Generation ... is the synthesis of the infusoria 
by means of the homogeneous but opposite pole of 
the organic world." " The feminine vesicle provides 
neither a germ nor elementary organic particles nor 
anything material, but only the form which unites 
the entering cercariae in such a way with each other 
(through the organic activity which has come into 
beingwith the vesicles), that, though stUl transparent, 
they already represent in miniature the type of that 
animal to whose genus they belong. The vesicle 
could be simply called the force which gives the type." 

So the embryo is formed " straight off, as soon as 
the spermatozoa are united with the vesicles." 

This is a very convenient kind of epigenesis. 
No doubt the reader will be amused, or perhaps he 
will blame us for mentioning Oken at aU when he 
reads such wild nonsense as, " The animal is the 
highest union of polyp and plant, of line and circle 

^ Not from inorganic matter in the strict sense, but (as with 
Needham) from putrifjring organic matter. 



— ^their fusion gives us an ellipse, a fact which 
everybody can easily demonstrate for himself." 

But in spite of all that we reject, one thing should 
not be forgotten : in substance even Oken's curious 
theories are based on the fundamental truth of 
Vitalism, the irreducibility of the organic form. 

But the kind of Vitalism which cannot be held 
up as an example is sufficiently represented by our 
one instance. 

(ii) REIL (1759-1813). 

If we wish to give a clear account of what J. Ch. 
Reil, the type of a clear-headed biologist trained in 
the philosophy of his age, looked upon as his pro- 
blem, we may best proceed from the contents of 
a letter which he wrote (February 22, 1807) to 
Autenrieth. The contents of this letter are given 
in a work which we shaU shortly have to mention. 

He speaks there about the " problem which no 
natural philosophy has yet solved, how to reach the 
matter from the idea." We might indeed well ask, 
wliy does the idea come to the matter at all, and why 
must new matter constantly come in through nutri- 
tion and old matter be ejected through excretion ? 

Reil tries to solve in his own way the difficulty 
which presented itself in his articles " Concerning 
the Life-force." ^ 

Everything is matter or representation ; a change 
of matter is, on Cartesian principles, thinkable only 
as motion ; representations are always accompanied 
by simultaneous movements of the brain, though 
of course not in the sense of a strict parallelism. 
From this it follows that before the existence of the 

' Reil's Archiv fiir die Physiologie, i. 1796, p. 8. 

REIL 99 

brain all natural occurrences must have been based 
upon matter ahne ; and this argument, conceived 
in a sufficiently realistic manner, serves to refute 
Stahl. But in a positive direction it leads us "to 
seek the cause of all the phenomena of the animal 
body which are not representations ... in animal 
matter — in the primary diversity of its elements and 
in their combination and form." 

The power of matter (which with Kant is con- 
ceived dynamically) to produce phenomena which 
depend on its form and mixture, is called the 
" property " of matter. 

The cause of the regular formation of animal 
bodies lies originally in the nature of animal matter. 

It must be understood that matter is here thought 
of as a whole. ReU does not find the principle of 
life in a mechanical organisation, although organisa- 
tion exists even to the smallest details ; ^ on the 
contrary, " the most general attribute of this 
unique animal matter is a special sort of crystallisa- 

" We can describe as force the relation of this 
property of the animal matter to its effects," namely, 
" the adding of foreign substances from outside and 
their purposive formation. This has been given 
the name formative-force and formative impulse." 
ReU denounces only the names, but not the whole 
conception. He strongly emphasises the fact that 
his " force " has the character of natural law and 
that it is combined with the " dead forces " in the 

1 Reil expressly rejects the view that the order in generation, 
alimentation and growth comes " through instruments." 


We have no interest in going into further details 
of Reil's exposition : he does not offer real proof 
of the objective truth ot his kind of Vitalism. We 
will only mention the excellent definition of irrita- 
bility, as it is an example of his logical clearness : 
" The quality of animal organs which causes them 
to change their present state through themselves 
when stimulated by an external agency, is called 
irritability." The cause of irritability lies in the 
mixture and form of the matter. 

Reil is the first representative of a vitalistic theory 
founded on the concept of living matter and thought 
out clearly, perhaps too simply for the greatness 
of the problem of how one " comes from idea to 
matter " ; he merely endows the matter with the 
idea. In a sense this too sounds quite modern ; 
but we must not forget the sentence which we have 
already quoted from Kant, " The possibility of a 
living matter is unthinkable ; the concept contains 
a contradiction, for lifelessness, inertia, is the 
essential characteristic of matter." To those who 
agree with this thesis Reil's work can be no more 
than a clever achievement erroneous from the very 


With G. R. Treviranus, if not already with Reil, 
we have the beginning of a really dogmatic VitaUsm, 
i.e. Vitalism whose proof is no longer thought 
necessary, the question being rather how it is to be 
presented. At the same time with Treviranus 
begins what might be called " scholastic Vitalism " ; 
every general treatment of physiological theory now 


commences, as it were, with a vitalistio system, for 
the most part not very different from its predecessors. 
This continues till Johannes Miiller, the last in this 
group of Vitalists. In every case we notice the 
secondary position taken by morphogenesis on which 
interest was concentrated throughout the eighteenth 
century; instead of it we get stress laid on the chemico- 
physiological side, and especially the problem of 
instinct ; often also that of " psychic life " as a 
natural phenomenon. 

If, nevertheless, we treat Treviranus alone, it is 
because he displays throughout his whole life an 
anxiety for clearness in vitalistic matters, and be- 
cause there really are quite original ideas in his 

In the years 1802-1822, there appeared six volumes 
of his Biologic, oder Philosophie der lebenden Natur, 
and the first in particular is devoted to general 
questions. In the long process of preparing his 
book Treviranus changed his outlook on many 
essential points ; so towards the end of his life he 
gathered together his final views in a new work, to 
which we shall refer later on. 

It is worth noticing that with Treviranus the 
word biology is used for the first time to designate 
the whole of the theory of the living : " The subject 
of our researches wUl be the different forms and 
phenomena of life, the conditions and laws under 
which this state occurs, and the causes which 
produce it. We shall designate the science which is 
occupied with these things as biology or the theory 
of life." 

Treviranus reproaches his predecessors for not 


having given a clear-cut definition of what they 
were investigating ; if a definition was given it was 
wrong, e.g. Stahl equates " living " and " animate." ^ 

" The uniformity of phenomena in relation to 
external influences " is, according to Treviranus, 
the fundamental criterion of life, and connected with 
this definition are all those discussions which char- 
acterise his work in particular. 

He shares Kant's theory of matter. In the 
inorganic, where the question is of matter alone, 
one alteration alters all, because of the principle of 
reaction. His definition of life would mean the 
contrary of this. How is this contrary possible ? ^ 
Evidently through something extraneous to 

We have shown that all matter is organised and 
subject to constant change, but that in the organisa- 
tion and in the change there is something permanent 
only so long as the external influences which cause 
the latter remain unchanged. The matter of living 
organisms cannot form an exception ; it must, 
for instance, be impenetrable. The exception, says 
Treviranus, which the substance of living bodies 
seems to constitute to the above can therefore be 
only apparent. There must be a dam which breaks 
the waves of the universe, in order to save living 
nature from the universal whirlpool. This mediating 
force is certainly not the primary force which is 
needed for the possibility of matter. " We call it 

'■ Simply by the consideration of the vitaUty of separate parts 
of the organism on which representation has no effect. 

" In reading Treviranus, it must be remembered that for him 
the word " organic " designates " order " of everij kind, and 
consequently nature in general is an organic system. 


therefore vital force (vis vitalis) to differentiate it 
from that primary force." 

Thus in any case mere form and combination of 
matter does not contain the cause of life, at least, 
not if we only admit the Kantian primary forces, 
repulsion and attraction. But if more primary 
forces were admitted the question would remain, 
what holds them together ? 

So " life is something entirely extraneous to 
matter " ; and as something new we also find 
" spiritual nature," Aristotle's voug. 

It must be especially noted that, taken in them- 
selves, the mechanical and chemical changes in 
organisms are the same as in lifeless nature ; 
but they differ in that the external causes, to which 
they owe their origin, influence the matter of living 
bodies not directly but through the vital force. 

There are three possibilities here : 

Is there vital force only where there is matter 
capable of life, such that the latter, beginning as a 
product of the inorganic, when finally formed 
" wakes " the vital force " from its slumber " ? 

Or is matter capable of life a product of vital force ? 

Or, thirdly, are they " determined reciprocally 
the one by the other " ? 

Treviranus decides for the third alternative in a 
lengthy discussion where, amongst other things, the 
vital force is considered quantitatively, and where 
the conception of a " vita minima " is introduced. 

So he uses two fundamental principles, the vital 
force and matter capable of life. In this he differs 
substantially from Reil. As might be expected, 
however, he is somewhat obscure. 


His matter capable of life is in itself formless ; it 
receives a determined form " through combination 
with elements of lifeless nature." In death, which 
thus becomes analogous to the transmigration of 
souls, all passes through that formless matter. But 
in particular the relation between vital force, form- 
less life-substance and external factors is imagined 
by Treviranus in conformity with his definition of 
the living as opposed to the material, in the following 
way : 

" The nature of life consists in the faculty or power 
to give relative uniformity to the absolute irregularity 
of external agents. Different forms of life are 
possible only if every kind of living organism 
possesses that faculty solely for certain external 
agents ; in other words, if its vital force acts 
only when influenced by certain powers, and if 
all the other powers affect the matter of the living 
organism, without having first been modified by 
the vital force." 

This statement serves as an explanation of 
different specific vital forms as weU. 

What depends on fortuitous external factors, what 
on the vital force, and what part is to be taken by 
the formless matter capable of life — all this can 
hardly be made out from the discussion, though its 
clear logic is deserving of special recognition. 

From the later volumes of the Biology which are 
more specialised we reproduce very little here. 

In the second volume Treviranus once more 
decides upon his third alternatiAe : first of all, 
because of the fact of spontaneous generation from 
organic substance in a state of decomposition, a 


" view which when demonstrated implies the de- 
monstration of the whole of biology," and secondly, 
because of the fact that organisms are liable to be 
influenced by external factors like nutriment, 
humidity, etc. These arguments can hardly be 
considered happy. 

In the fourth volume there is a good sentence : 
" The organ is a restriction, not the cause, of the 
activity of the formative impulse." 

In the sixth volume the relation between reason 
and the creative principle is elucidated by reference 
to somnambulism, hysteria, etc. Here Treviranus 
comes to the very modern conclusion (reminding us, 
for instance, of E. v. Hartmann), that something 
unconscious is the primary cause of life, affecting 
the body on the one hand and the spirit on the 
other. In language not quite clear from the critical 
point of view the instincts are called " unconscious 

Towards the end of his life Treviranus, as has been 
noted above, restated his views on the primary 
principles of biology,^ and did it in a substantially 
altered form. 

" Purposiveness for itself," as contrasted with 
the artificial product, is what characterises life for 
him ; and it is significant how the instinctive, the 
unconscious, becomes to him the foundation of all 
vitalistic theory ; in the last volume of the Biology 
there were already hints of such a view. Conscious- 
ness is not a mark of life ; in the instinct the aim 
is unconscious, in the muscular movement, on the 

' Die Erscheinungen und Gesetze des organiachen Lebens, 
Bremen, i. 1831 ; ii. 1832-3. 


other hand, " we are conscious of the final aim, not 
of the means." Purposiveness is conceivable always 
only as "an analogon to reason " : in this sense 
the sentence which Treviranus rejected in the 
Biology with reference to Stahl is of value to him 
now, " Living beings and animated beings (Beseelt- 
sein) are the same." 

He considers whether living bodies act and react 
upon each other without the intervention of the 
senses ; the regulative principle of the number of 
births and deaths and of sex, and somnambulism, 
support this view. 

But by far the best illustration of the real essence 
of biological phenomena is instinct. Instinct, in 
bees for example, rests upon " productive imagina- 
tion " ; it is comparable to dreaming ; it originates 
in an " obscure consciousness." And embryology 
may be conceived on the analogy of instinct ; it is 
"as if the germ of the wheat dreamt of root, shoot 
and ear." Johannes Miiller, Schopenhauer and 
Hartmann advocated a similar conception of morpho- 
genesis in later times. 

And finally : " All hving things have organisation, 
but organisation is the consequence of life. Life 
is a state that is alien to matter as such. As soon 
as life ceases, the elements of the body, which was 
animate before, become united by different laws 
than those prevailing in the former state." Bio- 
chemical analyses have therefore but little value. 
We may here recall Bichat's " anatomic cadaverique 
des fluides." 

As for spontaneous generation, it now seems to 
Treviranus " at least unproved." 



M. F. Autenrieih produced a very readable book 
about the principal problem of biology, Ansichten 
iiber Natur- und Seelenleben (1836). But there 
is little question of close analysis, and the way for 
the later criticism of a Lotze is being made easy ! 
There is in life, he holds, something essentially 
different from material substance ; this " vital 
force " is independent of the body. This is proved 
through the spontaneous generation of infusoria 
and of intestinal worms, and not less through the 
fact that single organs or whole organisms, e.g. fishes, 
can freeze and thaw again later on : here the_vitaL 
force, which is a reaUy measurable force, "had alto- 
gether j)r_partly left the body. 

The catastrophic theory, too, proves the inde- 
pendence of the vital force, and just as great a proof 
are the facts of fertilisation ; the physical element 
is unessential, as very few germs suffice. 

The best part of Autenrieth, though it is similar to 
what we find in Treviranus, is what he says about 
instinct, which " is based on the creative principle 
of the vegetative vital force." Instinct is not 
reason, but it can be combined with it as in the case 
of bees, cats, or dogs. — 

F. Tiedemann ^ thinks the " effort of metaphysics 
to give a complete knowledge of nature by idea of 
the reason (Vernunftideen) a failure and yet a deside- 

His own bio-theoretical inquiries introduce chemical 
considerations which begin now to play a part, at 
1 Physiologie des Menschen, i. Darmstadt, 1830. 


any rate incidentally. There are only binary com- 
binations in the inorganic ; therefore in the organic, 
where they are ternary and quaternary, there 
must be forces acting " against the afi&nities." 
It is true that urea and oxalic acid have been 
produced synthetically by inorganic means, but 
these substances " stand on the extreme limit 
between organic and inorganic compounds "■ — a 
mode of expression which is equivalent to a con- 
fession of uncertainty as to the previous state- 

Organisms are by form more multifold than 
the inorganic, but by " mixture " more uniform ; 
whence can be deduced a force peculiar to the former, 
a " higher power which acts in formation." This 
power " modifies " the affinities, though it has its 

Further considerations concerning spontaneous 
generation of infusoria and worms from decomposed 
elements (or rather the capacity of revivification 
when the substance isnot quite dead) lead Tiedemann 
— not very logically — to postulate the existence of 
a " vital matter " such as Reil had already affirmed, 
though by a more rigorous method. The material 
substratum of organic bodies is a unique substance, 
and possesses the property of formmg itself ; it 
was in fact contained in water and formed itself. 
Thus everything is settled at once. But Tiedemarm 
has to admit that " the main difficulty is not ex- 

Further on our author refers to the " peculiar 
matter capable of life " of Treviranus, but does not 
penetrate into his predecessor's not altogether clear 


but much deeper conception ; he also cites Buffon 
and Needham with approval. 

Blumenbach's " nisus formativus " is described 
as obscure ; we may, however, ask ourselves whether 
Tiedemann's conclusions, which never reach real 
logical accuracy, are not themselves obscure in a 
much higher •degree. 

He is at his best on certain details such as the idea 
that the existence of inanimate bodies depends " on 
the state of rest which occurs in chemical composi- 
tion," while the existence and conservation of 
organisms is conditioned by continual changes of 
composition. This reminds us of the modern con- 
ception of " dynamic equilibrium." The differ- 
ence between crystals and real " individuals," or 
organisms, is also well discussed. 

There is nowhere even so much as an attempt at 
a real proof of vitalism, except the unfortunate 
introduction about the relation between biology and 
chemistry. — 

StUl more than the above-mentioned writers is 
K. F. Burdach ^ under the speU of natural philosophy. 

The life-principle is not a " deus ex machina," but 
a " deus ex vita " ; no mechanical, no chemical 
theory is sufficient to explain organic formation. 
But the life-principle is not to be imagined as isolated 
from matter ; it works " through material means," 
through common activities of the organism such as 
secretion, assimilation, etc. " Matter is only an 
accident, while activity is the substance of the 

^ Die Fhysiologie als Erfahrungswissenschaft, Leipzig, 6 vols. Of 
special importance are v. 1835, and vi. 1840. 


In the course of development, he declares, the 
progress of further formation is always stimulated 
by that which already has been formed. This 
really lucid epigenetic idea deserves particular 

So far the fifth volume ; in the last Burdach tries 
to probe stUl deeper. 

All forces of the inorganic world are certainly 
active also in the organism ; this was an axiom 
on which Descartes and the latromechanists had 
buUt. They explained the mechanics of the articula- 
tion of limbs and some points in the circulation of 
the blood, and then thought that they could explain 
everything. In doing so they neglected the high 
'philosophical standpoint of Descartes. 

But the materialists have not proved anything ; 
any more than men like BufEon and Needham. 

Materialism can explain only details, but never 
their relation to the whole. But a general organic 
matter endowed with special power is no explana- 
tion, quite apart from the fact that such a thing 
cannot reaUy exist, since life is developing towards 
individualism. Electricity and heat cannot be the 
cause of life, as they presuppose the variety of 
living organic forms : explanations resting on 
irritability and the like are simply classifications. 
Stahl's soul, too, is to be rejected no less than 
a nerve-principle put in its place : there is life 
without nerves. Finally, the term " vital force " 
implies only " that there must be a peculiar cause 
for the peculiar phenomena of life." 

But what is to be done where all these theories 


Life must be explained " by the cause of existence 
alone." A reference follows to Fichte and Schelling : 
" We find in the organism the same predicates in a 
limited form which apply in an absolute sense to 
nature in general." 

" Vital force is the primordial thought realising 
itself within certain limits." 

Is such a solution satisfactory ? Hardly, for a 
true scientist. Reil's question, how do we come 
from the idea to matter ? must be raised and not 
merely shelved. 

Essentially, Burdach offers us no more than 
Oken, except that he is kept from obvious absurdities 
by logical training and critical capacity, which in 
general make the study of his work agreeable reading, 
and such as one can recommend. 

Schopenhauer often quotes Burdach favourably ; 
and what he valued was, of course, the metaphysical 
element, the " Will in Nature." We must also 
remember that Schopenhauer was not quite so far 
from nature-philosophy as he himself believed. — 

Karl Ernst v. Baer, the celebrated embryologist, 
was a pupil of Burdach's, and depends on him in his 
early theorising, which alone interests us here. He 
is also greatly influenced by nature-philosophy, and 
it will become clear later on that in matters teleolo- 
gical he never got beyond such dependence. We 
need not have referred to his book,i which, though 
epoch-making for embryology has very little impor- 
tance for Vitalism, were it not for a sentence which 
appears in the dedication to Pander ; that sentence 

1 Vber Entwickelungsgeschichte der Thiere, KOnigsberg, i. 1828, 
ii. 1837. 


unfortunately has often been quoted by materialist- 
Darwinian authors in order to label Baer as one of 
themselves : — 

" Many a man may get a prize ; but only he wiU 
win the palm for whom it is reserved to trace the 
creative powers of the animal body back to the 
general powers (or vital tendencies) of the universe. 
The tree which will supply the wood for his cradle 
has not yet been planted." 

Such expressions show what is indeed also suffi- 
ciently indicated by the words " vital tendencies," 
that Baer could not well be further from a materia- 
listic conception of nature, and that he thinks more 
in the spirit of nature-philosophy.^ 

" There is one fundamental idea which runs 
through all forms and stages of animal development, 
and commands all relations. It is the same idea 
which collected the scattered elements of matter 
into spheres and combined them into solar systems, 
the same idea which made the decomposed dust on 
the surface of the metallic planet grow up into 
living forms. But this idea is nothing else than life 
itself, and the words and syllables which express it 
are the different forms of all life." 

These might be the words of Oken ; it is certainly 
far from being the expression of a clear attitude 
towards the teleological problem, and of interest 
only because of the light it throws on the author's 

The real embryological merit of the book consists, 
as is known, in the differentiation of the conceptions 

' Baer also emphasises the fact, for example, that explanations 
by oxydation or electricity deal only with one side of the question. 


" type " ( =Lageverhaltnis) and " degree of organisa- 
tion " ; also in the view that the type is conditioned 
by the development in its embryological mani- 
festations. ' 

But we must bring our remarks to a conclusion, 
for we carmot deal in detail with every author in an 
age when everyone thought vitalisticaUy, and when, 
therefore, every writer ^^■hcL happened to theorise 
was responsible for a certain number of vitalistic 
remarks. We wiU only mention, therefore, that 
R. Wagner, the editor of the well-known Dictionary, 
did not agree with the contents of the anti- vitalistic 
contributions of his collaborator Lotze, ^ith whom 
we shall deal shortly : also that F. Magendie, 
though he was interested in matters of fact more 
than in the theory, differentiated between " purely 
physical and purely vital events," but at the same 
time was perfectly' clear in his assertion of their inter- 
mixture. ^ 

And now we turn to consider that man who repre- 
sents to a certain degree the final type of the old 


In his Mamial of Human Physiology,^ Johannes 
Miiller systematically summed up the dogmatic 
Vitalism for the last time. Miiller's book surpasses 
its predecessors in essentials, and had therefore a 
wider influence ; and moreover, the old Vitalism 

''■ Precif: ilimentaire de Physiologie, 1816. Amongst other 
things we read of " the harmful and perverse beUef that physical 
laws have no influence on the living body." 

' Koblenz, 1st edition, vol. i. 1833, vol. ii. 1840. Fourth 
edition, 1844. 



reached later generations chiefly in the form which 
he gave it. Indeed, he is often regarded as its 
typical exponent. This is true in a sense ; but 
for the real consolidation of the great vitalistic 
theory, Muller represents a true progress only in 
two separate (though not unimportant) points ; 
this, however, is sufficient for us to give him a 
distinguished place, and to treat him as more than 
merely the last of the school. But an essentially 
new idea of really fundamental kind is not to be 
found in his writings. 

The book begins with that statement about 
the chemical contrast of organisms and the in- 
organic which we know already from Tiedemann, 
and which, as Miiller emphasises, took a definite 
place in every contemporary book on chemistry ; 
even the problem of urea has almost literally the 
same solution as with Tiedemann. Besides selective 
affinity there is " something else " which rules 
in life. 

The Kantian view of the organic is next intro- 
duced, and the treatment of the conception of 
individuality reminds us once more of other 
predecessors. Somewhat more original, at least in 
its form, is the idea that the harmony which exists 
in the organism between structure and function is 
sufficient for the characterisation but not for the 
explanation of the organising powers, as the latter 
had existed before. 

Then Miiller brings some arguments against the 
embryological evolution theory ; epigenesis, on which 
he touches only slightly, is improved in so far as 
spontaneous generation of aU kinds is definitely 


rejected, with reference to Spallanzani ; and in so 
far as the permanence of organic matter is affirmed. 

Miiller finds the views of Stahl particularly con- 
genial, but we seriously doubt whether Stahl referred 
not to the representing Soul, but to the " organ- 
ising force expressing itself by a rational law." 
This formula, however, sums up Muller's own theory. 
It is certainly not new, and when he declares con- 
sciousness to be a creation of the organisation, and 
further, to be attached to an organ, the nerve- 
system, we cannot but remark the confused character 
of his expression from a critical standpoint. 

Whence arises the connection of that force with 
organic matter is not for Miiller a matter accessible 
to human knowledge. This view implies a real 
progress in comparison with earher writers. 

But this praise needs an immediate limitation 
when with reference to Reil the question whether 
or not that new element in life is material is described 
as uncertain. Miiller is here equally far from the 
clear analysis of his problem, which led Reil to 
his life-substance, and from the logical argument 
of Treviranus, who was able to reject ReU's solution. 

The most important passages of Miiller's first 
volume are those which arise from the discussion 
on the so-called life stimuli, or integrating stimuli 
{i.e. in our language the necessary conditions of 
life), and from the treatment of the problem of 
death. These stimuli vivify the organic forces 
and strengthen them. Through the vegetable 
world the vital force is increased from unknown 
external sources. There must be such an increase, 
since the organic force is multiplied in growth and in 


the reproduction of organic bodies : and hence we 
must admit "the inconceivable theory that the 
division of the organic force which takes place in 
reproduction causes no diminution of the force itself." 
In death, on the other hand, the organic force is 
resolved into its general natural causes, whence 
it seems to be regenerated once more through the 
vegetable world. 

All these considerations do not seem at first sight 
at all clear, nor are they all new ; indeed, we already 
had occasion when dealing with Miiller's predecessors 
to object to their habit of understanding the vital 
force in a quantitative sense. But what is a really 
original consideration is the way in which Miiller, 
though presupposing the wrong idea that the %-ital 
force itself can be understood quantitatively, raises 
the question of the origin of that quantity ; or, 
in modern terms, the way in which he requires a 
sort of " source of energy " for it. Truth and error 
are mingled here ; rather we should say, of course, 
there must be a source of energy for phenomena of 
life, but that which really characterises them has 
nothing to do with a source of energy. 

After the manner of the Aristotelians, Miiller 
distinguished a vegetative power, a motive power, 
and a sensitive power ; everything originates from 
the " primtim movens," whose creations become 
more and more specific. The reason ascribed to 
that " primum movens " is far mightier than human 
reason ; " all problems of physics are determined by 
this creative activity." It is also the cause of the 
instincts which, as by Treviranus, are regarded as 
a form of dream. 


Besides the anxious demand for a " source of 
energy " in life, Miiller, in the second volume of his 
book, treats the so-called problems of psychic life 
as really scientifio problems of physiology ; though 
he does it very confusedly, and uses the words 
" freedom," " sensation," etc., in a very vague way. 

The question whether soul and matter are neces- 
sarily connected is left open, like the question of the ' 
connection of matter and vital force. " The will sets 
in activity the nervous fibres like the keys of a/ 
piano . ' ' All the rest is nothing but mechanism . The 
existence of the soul does not depend on the un- 
injured brain, inasmuch as it was already latent ^ ; 
and thus the soul cannot be sick, but only the brain. 
But how that action on the nerves takes place is 
perhaps an unanswerable question. In any case 
it cannot be attributed to the intensity of an idea 
of purpose, for in that case the movement would 
have to increase with any increase in the intensity. 
Nor can it be attributed to the fact that the soul 
is filled with one single idea, for several movements 
can be executed at once. All this cannot be regarded 
as over critical, but a point which is worth mention 
is the emphasis on the relation of will to attention 
which recalls the writings of Wundt : whUe the 
views of Lotze are foreshadowed in the theory of the 
origin of volitional movements from the indefinite 
movements of new-born babies through the medium 
of experience. Particularly noteworthy is also 
Miiller's doctrine of the unimportance of the brain 

1 We may quote the passage : " With the structure the acting 
of the force already at hand (from the germ) is given ; the force, 
then, does not ultimately depend on the structure of the brain, 
though the possibility of its working depends on this structure." 


in spite of his theory of specific sense-energies. Loss 
of brain substance never results in the loss of definite 
ideational complexes, but in the diminution of the 
clearness of aU ideational activity. 

Some very general remarks conclude the theore- 
tical part of Miiller's work, and with them we may 
also close our examination — " The relation of soul 
and organism can in general be compared with the 
relation of every physical force of a general nature 
to the matter in which it is manifested : as, for 
instance, light and the body in which it appears. 
The enigma is the same in both cases." 

The effect of spirit on body or of body on spirit is 
conceived by Miiller according to the scheme of the 
monadology of Herbart. 

(vi) LIEBIG. 

We may conclude this part of our exposition by 
briefly examining the views of a famous chemist 
on the phenomena of life. The passages where 
Liebig refers in his Letters on Chemistry,'^ and less 
profoundly in his Animal Chemistry,^ to the fun- 
damental problems of biology are not concerned 
specially with the dotaUs or the establishment of 
Vitalism, but they are notable because they have a 
certain general character, and because they also 
show that the chemists of this age, of whom Liebig 
may be taken as the representative, Avcre very far 
from being opposed to Vitalism. 

Although chemical force and vital force are nearly 

' Leipzig, 1844 ; 4th edition, 1859. 

^ Die Ticr-C'hcmic in Hirer Anweiiduiig auf Pliysiologie und 
Palhologie, Braunschweig, 3rd edition, 184U. 


related, and the chemist can already produce aU 
kinds of organic substances and wUl one day be 
able to produce a great many more, chemistry wUl 
yet never be in a position to create an eye, a hair, or 
a leaf. The form, the qualities of the simplest 
groups of atoms are determined by the chemical 
force under the dominion of heat : while the form 
and the qualities of the higher and organised atoms 
are conditioned by the vital force. The latter, of 
course, has its limitations, and cannot for instance 
transcreate the elements. 

The anti-vitalistic materialists have mostly pro- 
ceeded in far too summary a fashion, and of course 
the same applies to the methods of the vitalists, 
since they failed to realise certain possibilities. 
But none the less the vitalistic view is the right one. 
" Only an insufficient acquaintance with the 
forces of inorganic nature can account for the 
frequent denial of the existence of a special force in 
organic beings, and for the ascription to inorganic 
forces of modes of action which are opposed to their 
nature and which contradict their laws. Those who 
venture on such a denial are ignorant that every 
chemical combination presupposes not one but 
three causes," viz. besides heat and affinity " the 
formation force of cohesion and crystallisation." 
" In living bodies there is added yet a fourth cause 
which dominates the force of cohesion and combines 
the elements in new forms so that they gain new 
qualities — ^forms and qualities which do not appear 
except in the organism." 

Opponents of Vitalism are, according to Liebig, 
mostly strangers to the sciences which investigate 


physical and chemical forces. His view reminds 
us of the fact that in modern times physicists and 
chemists have often been far less prejudiced in their 
views than biologists. We have only to think of 
Ostwald, Hertz, Maxwell and others. One could 
easily imagine that Liebig was writing in the sixties 
or eighties of the past century, instead of many 
decades earlier, when one reads his remarks about 
" dilettanti who have stroUed as far as the portals 
of scientific research, and then claim the right to 
discourse to an ignorant and credulous public how 
the world and life really arose and how far we have 
got in the solution of the deepest problems," of 
whose disquisitions on the relation of body and mind 
nothing remains when they are divested of all their 
gaudy trappings, but the single assertion that we can 
no more think without a brain than walk without legs. 

Only if we regard it as an aberration of nature- 
philosophy can we, according to Liebig, in some 
degree find an excuse for materialism. But none 
the less vital qualities are not to be regarded as an 
exception to the laws of nature. 

Our study has now brought us to a time when Vital- 
ism has at any rate to fight for its existence, when 
there are other candidates in the field. But before 
we enter in more detail on the new situation we a\t11 
give a second ending to this part of the discussion. 
We began it with a reference to the nature-philosophy 
of Schelling and Hegel, and we will conclude it 
with another reference to philosophy — to one who, 
if he were still alive, would perhaps take it very 
much amiss to be mentioned in the same paragraph 
as his enemies the " Professors of PhUosophj," but 


who certainly neglected similarities in stressing 
differences — to 


We are not here concerned with Schopenhauer's 
metaphysic of volition any more than with the 
rational systems of his opponents. When, in the 
course of his work, he has to demonstrate the fact 
that nature shows various stages of the " objectifica- 
tion of the will," of which the highest is the living 
organism, he adduces a great number of biological 
facts ^ regarded from a general vitalistic standpoint : 
and these present a valuable field for scientific 

Of immediate scientific interest and methodological 
importance is one definite thought which we find in 
Schopenhauer. It is attached to his criticism of 
the Kantian philosophy, and to the part dealing with 
the teleological judgment in particular, and runs as 
foUows : 

" Kant rightly asserts that we can never succeed 
in explaining the nature of organised bodies from 
merely mechanical causes, by which he understands 
the undesigned and regular effect of aU the universal 
forces of nature. Yet I find here a gap. He 
denies the possibility of such an explanation merely 
with regard to the teleology and apparent adaptation 
of organised bodies. But we find that even where 

' Cf., in addition to the second book in both volumes of his 
chief work, his publication On Will in Nature. 

^ Most important is the parallel between instinct and the 
operation of organising nature in The World as Will and Idea, 
vol. ii. book 2, chapter sxvii. (English Trans, by Haldane and 


there is no organisation the grounds of explanation 
which apply to one province of nature cannot be 
transferred to another, but forsake us as soon as 
we enter a new province ; and new fundamental 
laws appear instead of them, the explanation of 
which is by no means to be expected from the laws 
of the former province. Thus in the province of the 
mechanical, properly so called, the laws of gravita- 
tion, cohesion, rigidity, fluidity, and elasticity 
prevail, which in themselves (apart from my explana- 
tion of aU natural forces as lower grades of the 
objectification of wiU) exist as manifestations of 
forces which cannot be further explained, but 
themselves constitute the principles of aU further 
explanation, which merely consists in reduction to 
them. If we leave this province and come to the 
phenomena of chemistry, of electricity, magnetism, 
crystallisation, the former principles are absolutely 
of no use ; indeed the former laws are no longer 
valid, the former forces are overcome by others, and 
the phenomena take place in direct contradiction 
to them, according to new laws, which, just like the 
former ones, are original and inexplicable, i.e. 
cannot be reduced to more general ones. . . . Such 
an exposition would have been especially favourable 
to his excellent remark that a more profound know- 
ledge of the real being, of which the things of nature 
are the manifestation, would recognise both in the 
mechanical (according to law) and the apparently 
intentional effects of nature one and the same 
ultimate principle, which might serve as the more 
general ground of explanation of them both." 

These reflections do not quite harmonise with 


Kant's ideal of a resolution of all physics into 
phenomena of movement, but they are none the 
less right. They are, moreover, of the greatest 
importance both for the general method of science 
and for biology in particular. They are extended 
in Schopenhauer's further doctrine that all the 
elementary laws of nature are the more intelligible 
the poorer they are in content, and the less intelligible 
the richer in content. But biology he regards in a 
vitalistic sense as an independent science with 
special irreducible laws, though life for him is at the 
same time only the last member of a series and in 
no way contrasted with the rest of nature. ^ 

Schopenhauer's whole conception has a peculiarly 
modern ring with respect to questions of method, 
and directly anticipates the ideas of Mach and Paul 
du Bois-Reymond. 


It is said of political parties that they die out when 
they no longer have opponents to contend with. 

' The idea that the difierent branches of natural science — 
Mechanics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology — have to deal with 
phenomena which ever grow more complicated, is also found in 
Comte's Gouts de Philosophie positive, vol. iii. 3rd edition, Paris, 
1869. TTia dread of metaphysics and "entities," his "Posi- 
tivism," prevented his understanding the real problem of 
Vitalism. For his Positivism was in reality an imperfection, 
since it overlooked the a priori necessity accompanying the 
formation of concepts and judgments, and he also leaves it 
uncertain whether he believed that in each branch of natural 
phenomena there is an autonomy of a growing intensive com- 
plexity, or merely a complication of the configuration. 
The first alternative seems to us the more likely. These f e^ 
words, however, must suffice on Comte, as in Claude Bernard we 
shall later have to deal with a thinker who adopts the same 
point of view, with a better scientific foundation and training. 


Something similar is also true of scientific and phUo 
sophic theories ; it is not as though they cease to 
exist as such, but they lose their strength, their 
capacity for being always ready to face an attack 
which is always possible and perhaps not altogether 
unjustified ; they become lax and careless in their 
logical deductions ; they forget to justify every 
assertion in the light of the theory of knowledge. 
But what is worse stiU, they become careless with 
regard to their fundamental principles : they regard 
these as so certain that it is no longer worth 
whUe to examine them, no longer worth while 
even to mention them : still less do they en- 
deavour to establish them yet more strongly by 
the new facts that might be adduced from actual 

In such circumstances a doctrine declines and 
eventually dies. It may, of course, have never- 
theless been the right explanation, but what was 
right in it was buried under a mass of confused and 
false details. The opposing doctrine which takes its 
place cannot be said to have refuted its predecessor 
as a whole ; for it has refuted only certain par- 
ticulars which were wrong and not well founded on 
it. It proceeds, however, with an acute and rigorous 
logic ; it fights earnestly for its own existence ; 
it attracts to itself all the unoriginal thought of 
the time, and overlooks the fact that it has never 
reaUy touched the kernel of truth which lay in the 
older theory, which has passed away through its 
own carelessness. 

But, finally, the old theory rises again in a new and 
improved form, thankful for honest and well founded 


criticism, even though that criticism was wrong 
in its essentials — and that is exactly what happened 
in the case of the old Vitalism. 

It died for lack of opponents. Who of all those 
writers whose doctrines we have examined had 
during the last six decades reaUy examined the 
fundamental principles of his theory, who had 
endeavoured to put forward an objective justification 
of his own doctrine as opposed to others, who had 
proved his conclusions ? Blumenbach was the last 
of all these naturalists who really undertook this 

Thus it was that a critique came to the front which, 
to all outward appearance, had set Vitalism on one 
side for the time being. But Vitalism had not been 
overthrown ; it had only been purified, and hence it 
is that we lay stress on our statement that the old 
Vitalism died literally by a process of self-extermina- 



Of all the criticisms and negations which in the 
middle of the nineteenth century and even somewhat 
later were directed against the older Vitalism, there 
are only two which are good, only two which do not 
content themselves with mere verbalism. These 
two, however, are first rate, and they emanate 
respectively from Lotze and from Claude Bernard. 
But it is curious to observe how, in spite of aU 
criticism and negation, both thinkers were forced 
by the sheer weight of facts to admit the truth of 
much in the vitalistic theories. 

Their objections are indeed in the last resort 
criticisms, and not actually refutations ; and what 
claimed to be a complete refutation bore, as we have 
already asserted, and shall now proceed to prove, 
the most manifest superficialitj' . 

The fact that in spite of their real import 
both these critiques were, owing to the materia- 
listic and sensational tendency of the time, inter- 
preted entirely amiss and in a manner contrary 
to the intentions of their originators as absolute 

LOTZE 127 

refutations,' in no wise impairs the correctness of 
our view. 

(a) LOTZE. 

H. Lotze's article, " Life and Life-force," in the 
first volume of Wagner's Dictionary of Physiology 
(Braunschweig, 1842) is the most solid of all attacks 
upon VitaHsm. And yet there were many mis- 
understandings. Thus when Lotze asserts that a 
" Life-force " is out of court from the beginning, 
because no natural event has only one cause, we can 
reply that he could have dispensed with this apparent 
attack if he devoted himself to Wolff or Blumenbach 
rather than to his contemporaries. The " Accessory 
Principles " of the former writer would certainly 
have shown that the objection was beside the mark. 

This is noticeable over and over again. Exag- 
gerated expositions of Vitalism had become so 
numerous that the writers of the day easily lost 
sight of what was still the correct view. 

Against the " matter capable of life " of Tre- 
viranus, the critic objects that it is reaUy superfluous 
since specific forms must result from the relations 
of Life-force and outside factors. The objection 
is valid : but it does not touch Vitalism as a whole. 

And when Lotze turns to the migration of the 
independent Life-force in Autenrieth's sense, and 
observes that the doctrine of the ancients, that 
life-forms are ideas, was reaUy better, we who profess 
Vitalism are entirely on his side. 

Schelling and his successors, according to Lotze, 
" never had a clear conception of the relation of a 
legislative idea to its executive means." Their idea 


of the species as a legislative power is as it were an 
equation for the curve of life. But with them the 
equation not only determined but described the 
path of the curve. 

To this also we gladly subscribe : but it does not 
seem to us so very new. We remember, for instance, 
that the problem " how to come from idea to 
matter " weighed heavily on ReU. 

What Lotze really means in general is this : the 
formative impulse can never " explain " anything, 
as here the " law " is lacking. At the most, it 

What then is meant by " explain " and by the 
" law " ? Lotze is probably thinking of quantitative 
laws ; but where are they to come from when the 
substance is not quantitative ? And what else is 
meant by the " explanation of events " than their 
subsumption under appropriate schemata ? This, 
indeed, is our opinion, and Lotze is here preoccupied 
with the intentions of mechanistic physics. 

When Lotze goes on to say that the regulative 
element in the processes of life is no proof of Vitalism, 
since it is not always present, he is guilty of a 
confusion too often made even to-day. A series of 
facts can only serve as proof where it occurs, and 
never where it does not occur. I cannot study optics 
in a dark cave, without the aid of a light. Only when 
a series of facts actually occurs can the question of 
its validity as a proof arise. 

But when Lotze sets the occurrence of " monstra " 
in the scale against Vitalism, and speaks of the 
" horrible " creations achieved by the liberation of 
mechanism, we can only reply that Blumenbach 

LOTZE 129 

was quite aware of the actual facts and yet remained 
a Vitalist. 

The long disquisitions directed against the designa- 
tion " life-force " and against " division " of this 
" force," are however quite to the point ; but it 
should be held in mind that the dispute is only 
about a word which was actually avoided by many 
Vitalists, and also that the great service of Lotze's 
contemporary, Johannes Miiller, consisted in this, 
that he sought to make plausible to himself the 
concept of something like a source of energy for vital 

It produces a curious effect, after all that has been 
said, when we suddenly learn from Lotze that old 
Stahl's doctrine of the " soul " controlling aU events 
of life was not such a great mistake after all ; for 
here the soul is conceived of as a " substance," and 
thus something at least which can produce an effect 
is introduced. 

It almost seems as though in the whole of Vitalism 
Lotze had taken offence at the use of the word 
" force " alone. But this would be erroneous. He 
rejects Vitalism as a theory of the actual facts of 
vegetative and formative processes, and at the end 
of his observations on the matter he expressly 
declares that organisms are " machines," a 
concept which must be taken in a very broad 

Up to this point, then, Lotze is a static teleologist. 
A man of his stamp could obviously not sink to the 

' Later on the formative impulse (conceived in a primitive 
epigenetic manner) as well as the facts of physiology proper are 
described as mechanical. 



absurdity of denying the irreducible uniqueness of 

But now comes the second part of the article, 
which treats of the " Life of the Soul " ^ ; and now 
the philosophic physiologist becomes a confessed 
Vitalist. It was for this reason, no doubt, that 
also in the sphere of vegetative Vitalism Stahl's 
view was to him the most sympathetic. 

The " soul " as something entirely new in relation 
to the rest of nature is able to provide an absolutely 
new beginning for mechanical movement. Lotze 
insists that this fact must also be accepted if there 
really were such a thing as a healing power in organic 

We see here clearly how on the one hand his false 
dogmatic mechanism, and on the other his conception 
of the soul as something that is alien to nature, 
removed Lotze from a really unprejudiced inter- 
pretation of the subject. 

Now how does the soul operate according to its 
own laws ? 

Thoughts, ideas as such, " have not the slightest 
power to move masses, or indeed to move anything. 
They can, however, attain to such power in so far 
as they are definite states, modifications, or move- 
ments of a reality, of a substance, viz. of the ' soul.' 
That is to say, states of difl:erent substances belonging 
to the same category are opposed to one another. 
Cause and effect, however, apply to all that is ' real,' 
regardless of whether it is body or spirit." Thus 
every difficulty is surmounted. The " concept of 

' Ct. also the essays on " Instinct " and " The Soul and Soul- 
life " by Lotze in vols. ii. and iii. of Wagner's Dictionary. 

LOTZE 131 

substance " which is common to spirit and to body 
renders everything comprehensible. 

Lotze even holds the immediate action of the soul 
upon a foreign body to be possible. On the other 
hand, he keeps before him the idea of really strict 
laws of psycho-physical influence. 

Thus, in spite of rejecting the actual, biological 
Vitalism, Lotze came so extraordinarily near to it 
in his soul-theory that his rejection of it is a cause 
of perpetual astonishment. A closer analysis of 
what he actually conceives the soul to be capable of, 
makes the matter still clearer. 

Images, feelings, desires, he says, are only modes 
of appearance assumed by inner states of the soul- 
substance for our own observations. As such they 
have not the smallest power to move reality. On 
the other hand, those inner, unconscious states of 
the soul as substance, which are totally removed from 
experience and never come within our view, can, in 
conjunction with the states of that other reality, 
the body, affect a given mass and initiate an 
absolutely new movement. 

Lotze, in fact, is a metaphysician, as is shown by 
his conception of a real substance. Furthermore, 
he admits an unconscious and yet purposive element 
as an active factor in nature conceived as real : and 
he even interprets the instincts in an expressly 
non-mechanical manner. ^ 

Why then does he reject Vitalism ? Is his view 

really anything but Vitalism in a special sphere, 

i.e. in the case of active man, who after aU is also a 

living being ? Is there the slightest distinction 

• Cf. the article on " Instinct " already referred to. 


between his theory of the operation of the soul and 
that of Johannes Miiller ? At any rate, he claims 
that the causal relation of body and soul is no harder 
to understand than any sort of causality, and he has 
a thoroughly clear conception of matter. 

In truth, it was only contemporary exaggeration 
of the real Vitalism in its narrower sense that moved 
Lotze to reject as a whole what he yet accepted in 
part ; though, as in the case of Kant, fictitious 
problems created by a mechanical dogmatism were 
not without their pernicious influence. 


To Claude Bernard is due the other important 
critique of the older Vitalism. It has its origin 
in the seventies, and is therefore really subsequent 
to many sporadic anti-vitalistic criticisms which we 
shall mention in due course ; but we shall neverthe- 
less deal with it here so as to preserve a certain unity 
for the little reaUy profound criticism which exists. 

Many chapters of Bernard's Lemons sur les pMrw- 
mines de la vie ^ are devoted to bio-theoretical 
discussions of the most general character ; we wUl 
expressly concentrate our attention upon the 
historical excursus in the second volume which con- 
tains valuable matter concerning the history of 
biology in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 

Bernard, like Lotze, is for the most part tilting 
at windmUls, i.e. what he attacks was indeed once 
said by some exponent of Vitalism — chiefly by 
Bichat — and it generally deserves his strictures : 
but for all it was not really the Vitalism. 

» Paris, 1878-9, 2 vols. 


Who, for instance, conceived of vital phenomena 
as " regies directement par un principe vital in- 
terieur " without dependence upon external con- 
ditions ? Certainly not Wolff, Blumenbach, or 
Liebig. Who imagined only " Fintervention d'une 
force extraphysique, speciale, independante " ? 
Surely only a few. 

But Bernard does not confine himself to criticism 
of exaggerations of the vitalistic doctrine, and when 
he is occupied with the real theory he finds himself 
to a certain extent in agreement with it. 

" Nous nous separons des Vitalistes, parce que la 
force vitale, quel que soit le nom qu'on lui donne, 
ne saurait rien faire par elle-meme, qu'elle ne peut 
agir qu'en empruntant le ministere des forces 
generales de la nature et qu'elle est incapable de se 
manifester en dehors d'elles. — Nous nous separons 
egalement des materialistes ; car, bien que les 
manifestations vitales restent placees directement 
sous I'influence de conditions physico-chimiques, 
ces conditions ne sauraient grouper, harmoniser les 
phenomenes dans I'ordre et la succession, qu'ils 
affectent specialement dans les etres vivants." 

" D y a dans le corps anime un arrangement, une 
sorte d'ordonnance que Ton ne saurait laisser dans 
I'ombre, parce qu'elle est veritablement le trait le 
plus saillant des etres vivants." The word " force " 
is not a good designation for what is meant, " mais 
ici le mot importe peu, il suflfit que la reaJite du fait 
ne soit pas discutable." 

" Les phenomenes vitaux ont bien leur conditions 
physico-chimiques rigoureusement determinees ; 
mais en meme temps ils se subordonnent et se 


suocedent dans un enchainement et suivant une 
loi fixes d'avanoe.". . . " II y a comme un dessin 
preetabli de chaque etre et de chaque organe." 

From the teleological point of view this is clearly 
thought out, but it still leaves room for the two 
alternatives of teleology, the static and the dynamic. 
Did Bernard see this question quite clearly, or was 
he still troubled by a certain obscurity which even 
Kant had perhaps not quite fathomed ? 

Bernard allows a " plan organique," but not the 
" intervention d'un principe vitale." This last, a 
" force vitale," is to be admitted at the most as a 
" force legislative," but not as a " force executive." 
This sounds like static teleology. 

But then follows the passage : "La force vitale 
djrige des phenomenes qu'elle ne produit pas ; les 
agents physiques produisent des phenomenes qu'ils 
ne dirigent pas." This might be taken in a vitalistic 

For the more thorough understanding of Bernard's 
real view, we must consider a chain of argument 
where he appears, as i^ seems to us, at his best, and in 
which he at least approaches the modern phenomenal- 
istic school as represented, for instance, by Mach. 

Every science, says Bernard, including, for in- 
stance, optics or electro-dynamics, knows only the 
conditions ("conditions physico-chimiques") under 
which the modes of appearance which it is studying 
manifest themselves ; it knows only the " deter- 
minisme " of the phenomenon. In the place of the 
ancient cause appears this view, that certain condi- 
tions produce the " phenomene." 

If the phenomenon is ascribed to a " force " (force), 


then this latter is always " metaphysical " ; it is 
only " thought," is never " active." The " causes 
premieres" are " inaccessibles." 

And — in this meaning of the words — the physio- 
logist should study " le determinisme physico- 
chimique correspondant aux manifestations vitales." 

Is that not Vitalism ? In connexion with the 
above explanations, Bernard reproaches the Vitalists 
with having denied this " determinisme" ; but apart 
from the fact that to many, e.g. Blumenbaoh and 
Wolff, this certainly does not apply, we may ask — 
is that all he can charge them with ? In that case, 
Bernard could be described as a critical Vitalist. 

" H y a des conditions materielles (physico- 
chimiques) determinees qui reglent I'apparition des 
phenomenes de la vie. H y a des lois preetablies 
qui en reglent I'ordre et la forme." " La vie n'est 
ni plus ni moins obscure que toutes les autres causes 

We cannot, however, be satisfied, in spite of all 
that has been said, that Bernard's attitude to the 
problem of life is thus finally settled, and we shall 
have to leave it at this, that he did not distinguish 
the two sides of teleology sufficiently sharply. In 
one place he says, " conditions organiques " instead 
of " lois preetablies," which manifestly sounds more 
in harmony with a mechanical theor3^ He claims, 
moreover, with Leibnitz, that one should study life 
" as though " no vital force existed ; though it is 
hard to see why. 

When, on the other hand, it is said that life is 
indeed a " principe " but not a " resultante " of 
the " conditions," this again sounds vitalistic. 


In short, Bernard's standpoint, in spite of the 
value of certain of his individual contributions, is not 
in our opinion entirely unambiguous. And this is 
due to his faulty analysis of the only possible meaning 
that can be attributed to knowledge of natural 
phenomena in general. 

The last words with which at the close of the 
second volume he once more sums up his " vitalisme 
physique," still leave the actual " vitalistic " element 
of this Vitalism in the dark — " I'element ultime 
du phenomene est physique ; I'arrangement est 

This woiild be static teleology of the purest sort 
had not Bernard proffered that admirably clear 
argument about conditions and manifestations ; and 
it is on the ground of this argument that we can 
pronounce him a true Vitalist, who is only to be 
charged with inconsistency in relation to his choice 
of many expressions — perhaps because he did not 
see quite clearly the distinction between static and 
dynamic teleology. 

Thus, criticism of the (partly misunderstood) older 
theory led our critic himself to the enlightened 

If in conclusion we turn to some of Bernard's more 
specific contributions, especially his discussion of the 
development of animals, here agam a vigorous 
struggle for clearness without complete success wUl 
be apparent. Bernard possesses a clear conception 
of what W. Roux nowadays calls self-differentiation ; 
he knows that the parts of the embryo develop 
in relative independence of each other. Since all 
processes of life, like everything else, occur of 


necessity, so on the ground of this " self-differentia- 
tion," when one of the parts is disturbed, we get 
the " necessary but illogical " monstra. Here we find 
Bernard's thought closely allied to that of Lotze. 

It is in uniformity with the above that Bernard 
compares morphogenesis, the growth of individual 
forms, to the work of a great factory in which those 
who work at the parts of a product know nothing 
of that product as a whole. Then, one would like 
to say, the " whole " does exist in some active form 
or other ? And again, the morphogenetic laws are 
described somewhat obscurely as " dormantes ou 
expeotantes," but not as active. And yet in every 
kind of regeneration the organism must be regarded 
as an " ensemble ou unite," and the organic form is 
expressly regarded as not being the result of the 
nature of the protoplasm : "La forme et la matiere 
sont independantes, distinctes." 

Thus, the analysis of Bernard's views on specific 
problems appears to confirm the impression derived 
from our discusEion of the more general section of 
his work. 


Four circumstances fundamentally determined the 
character of all thought about nature, and indeed 
on many other problems, in the second half of the 
nineteenth century. 

First of all, the rise of a materialistic Metaphysic 
in express opposition to the ideaHstic identity- 

Then Darwinism, which explained how by throwing 
stones one could build houses of a typical style. 


Thirdly, the discovery of the law of the Conserva- 
tion of Energy by Robert Mayer — a proposition 
which in spite of the poverty of its content enraptured 
all the natural sciences. 

Lastly, and of particular importance in reference 
to Biology, the discovery and systematic investiga- 
tion of the delicate structures of living beings with 
the help of improved optical instruments. 

We may regard these four influences as inde- 
pendent, although they mutually strengthened one 
another. In relation to the fundamental problems 
of Biology, and in particular to Vitalism, each should 
be considered on its own merits. 

The materialistic metaphysic of Moleschott, Vogt, 
and Biichner asserted all that is real is motion, 
that qualities of a higher kind exist only as appear- 

Darwinism claimed to show how something pur- 
l)osively constructed could arise by absolute chance ; 
at any rate, this holds of Darwinism as codified in 
the seventies and eighties. Darwin himseK (as is 
well known) had, to begin with, left the question of 
the nature and measure of " variability " open ; a 
course which reduced his doctrine to the self-evident 
proposition that what was not capable of existence 
could not exist (" Natural Selection "), but yet did 
not render it obviously meaningless.^ Already, 
however, the single fact that there are possibilities 
of regulation, such as that seen in the regeneration 
of the salamader, confutes, as is well known, the 

1 The modem mutation theory of de Vries, which makes 
variations arise by leaps and natural selection merely do the 
work of elimination, is, of course, not Darwinism. Darwin was 
nearer to this view at the beginning of his career than later. 


orthodox Darwinism of Darwin's followers, for, in 
its application to this case, the scheme becomes 
utter nonsense. This cannot be too often empha- 
sised, and none of the other refutations of Darwinism 
equal in drastic incisiveness that based upon the 
facts of regeneration. 

Concerning the Law of the Conservation of Energy, 
it was not realised that it was only the law of causality 
interpreted quantitatively. 

But the discovery of the delicate structure of 
microscopic organisms played the investigators 
exactly the same trick as had their former ignor- 
ance. Formerly much had been accounted for as 
the operation of an ultimate law of life, simply 
because it was not known that there were very many 
complications of a mechanical kind which would 
have to be accounted for before any general explana- 
tion was attempted. Now, because a few things 
were really understood on account of the delicate 
structures having been recognised, it was thought 
that everything must be comprehensible on the same 
grounds. This, however, readily opened the doors 
to a dogmatic mechanical theory. 

The effects of the general conditions which we 
have described varied considerably in the different 
branches of Biology. Botany allowed itself to be 
the least influenced ; it has preserved its continuity, 
and on the whole even in this time of depression 
remained a science. In the sphere of animal life, 
in Physiology proper, the doctrine of the functions 
did occasionally break loose and wander into blind 
alleys, but never actually degenerated. The 
thorough training of its representatives, together 


with the circumstance that as a fairly severe discip- 
line it could permanently retain only the most gifted 
minds, spared it from such a fate. 

But Animal Morphology celebrated a perfect 
witches' orgy. It elaborated a phantastic con- 
struction of so-called " genealogical trees." 

The idea of a genetic connexion of the different 
specific life-forms, the idea of a " Descent," had 
made its appearance, as is well known, already in 
the eighteenth century and even in Antiquity. But 
ib had always been brought forward in a general 
and problematic form with the consciousness that 
here nothing positive could be said ; and far-seeing 
persons, philosophers especially, had realised that 
historical information could never constitute an 
explanation, and that in comparison to real science 
it was of very secondary importance. ^ 

But now Darwinism had apparently " explained " 
Descent in general,^ why should it not " explain the 
pedigree of individual species " ? And so the old 
comparative anatomy, which claimed to be nothing 
but a olassificatory preparation for the knowledge of 
the type, of the rational in the forms of nature, 
became the phantasy christened Phylogeny. 

1 Cf. Hegel, Klcinr Logik, ed. Bolland, Leyden, 1899, p. 522, and 
Schopenhauer, Will in Nature, ed. Frauenstiidt, fifth edition, 
Leipzig, 1891, p. 44. The two opponents are here miited. I 
may refer the reader also to my work Die Biologic als sclbsidndige 
Grundvjissenschaft, Leipzig, 1893, 2nd ed. 1911. The problem of 
history cannot be discussed here ; it is dealt with in my Gifford 

' The doctrine of Descent and Darwinism must of course be 
kept distinct ; the latter, which in its orthodox form we regard 
as finally disposed of, is a subdivision of the former, which appears 
probable in view of the results of Palaeontology and Geography, 
though its laws are still very obscure. 


Far worse were the " laws " whose discovery the 
occasion facilitated. What was called " general 
zoology " was here the chief playground for their 
fabrication — which simply violated every principle 
of the formation of scientific concepts. Wigand 
has given a classic description of this state of affairs 
which is not lacking in humour. 

But we must not dwell any longer upon these 
mattera which do not reaDy concern the history of 
Vitalism, and the analysis of a single example wUl 
suffice to show the depths to which the sense of 
scientific method had fallen. For the Darwinian 
Phylogenists all construction of form was accidental ; 
consequently, the totality of living forms of life 
appeared to them as meaningless as, say, the forms 
of clouds in their accidental peculiarity. But this 
at once did away with any deeper meaning for 
zoological classification. It was settled once and 
for all ; the question had no sense. And yet it was 
investigated — though by imaginary means. But 
why ? How could one spend one's strength on a 
task of the scientific worthlessness of which one was 
convinced from the beginning as a thoroughgoing 
Darwinian ? ^ The obvious answer is that no one 
put to himseK the all -important query — ^what after 
all is the meaning of science itself ? 

It was, on the one hand, the Physiology of form- 
construction which originated in His, and was 
materially advanced by Roux, and, on the other, 

' Darwin is unfortunately always made to suffer for the sins / 
of his followers, and the words " Darwinism," " Darwinian " i 
are quite established. Darwin himself, though not always 
critical, kept clear of the chief errors of " Darwinism." 


the exact researches made upon variations, hybrids 
and mutations, which began to put an end to the 
unworthy state of zoology which we have described. 

If we turn once more to our central thesis, the 
position of Vitalism in the light of the sciences in 
general, it is clear that the attitude of the repre- 
sentatives of the scientific spirit of the last generation 
will be one of absolute negation. There was no place 
in the chance-theory for a deeper interpretation of 
the forms of life even in a merely static-teleological 

We will indicate the attitude of that period to 
Vitalism by means of two examples ; the views, 
namely, of two of the best thinkers of the age whose 
positive scientific achievements, in spite of their 
subservience to the ruling tendency, are certain of 
a fame which will last through generations. If we 
find the statements even of such writers astonish- 
ingly hasty and superficial, we shall be forgiven for 
passing over in silence the great mass of contemporary 
deliverances on the question of the independence of 
vital events. 

Emil du Bois-Reymond dedicated to the refutation 
of Vitalism the greater part of the Introduction to 
the first volume of his Untersiichungen uber tierische 
Elektrizitat (Berlin, 1848). 

He is entirely caught in the trammels of mechanical 
Physics. It is from this dogmatism that later his 
famous " Ignorabimus " sprang, his assertion, 
namely, that man would never be able to grasp 
" how matter could think " : a problem which a real 
critique of knowledge simply solves by the considera- 
tion that " matter " does not " think." 


Starting from his standpoint of mechanistic in- 
vestigation of nature, Dubois begins in the usual 
way by quarrelling with the term " life-force." 
Force is never the cause but only the measure 
of movement. As we already know, however, the 
dispute is merely verbal. 

He then endeavours to show in succession that 
neither a special matter nor a special force of the 
ultimate particles of matter — to which alone the 
word force in its meaning of measurement can here 
be applied — are at the base of the phenomena of life. 

" A particle of iron is and remains one and the 
same thing whether it travels through the celestial 
spaces in a meteor stone, crashes along the rails in 
the wheel of an engine, or courses through a poet's 
temples in the blood-cell." 

In this resounding sentence the specificity of 
living matter is rejected, but unfortunately by means 
of an assumption of which it is and remains true to 
say that it is in the worst sense metaphysical and 
devoid of any clear meaning. 

This, however, is not so important. We have 
still to refute the assertion that the specific criterion 
of vital processes is not to be found in the difference 
between the forces of the material particles in organic 
and inorganic bodies. Here, says our critic, there 
is no difference. " There is no life-force in the 
vitalistic sense, because the operations ascribed to 
it can be analysed into those which proceed from the 
central forces of the particles. There is no such 
force because forces do not exist independently and 
cannot be arbitrarily allotted to and then removed 
from matter." 


In answer to the first objection, one can only 
regret that the author did not carry out the analysis 
in question. He, at any rate, cannot be assumed to 
have succeeded. 

The second sentence, however, first affords a 
support to Vitalism, and then attacks this support. 
It would have been better to have asked : Do the 
facts compel us to assume that the phenomena of 
life have a law of their own, or do they not ? And 
of the proof of the negative we find in Dubois literally 
not a trace. 

That a life-force would contradict the law of the 
conservation of energy forms the conclusion of E. 
Dubois Reymond's statements. We shall have a 
better opportunity of testing this supposed objection 
if we now turn to the opinions of the second of the 
writers whose views we proposed to examine. 

Helmholtz shall be our second example of an 
opponent of Vitalism in the materialistic reaction. 
We can fortunately be brief even as he is brief. 
Indeed, he hardly deems Vitalism worthy of con- 
sideration at all. 

With the assumption that Vitalism had regarded 
freedom in the sense of a negation of law, the famous 
physicist introduces the problem of Vitalism in many 
parts of his writings on general subjects.^ But had 
this view of freedom, or even anything similar, 
been maintained by any Vitalist ? And had not 
Blumenbach and Wolff, for instance, expressly 
asserted the contrary ? 

1 Cf. the Vortrage und Reden, third edition, Braunschweig, 


Vitalism, it is said, contradicts most clearly of all 
the law of the Conservation of Energy. 

" If the Life-force could momentarily suspend the 
gravity of a body the latter could, without expendi- 
ture of physical energy, be raised at pleasure to any 
height, and then, when its gravity was restored, be 
rendered capable of accomplishing any amount of 
work desired. If the Life-force could momentarily 
abolish the chemical attraction of carbon to oxygen, 
then carbonic acid could be decomposed similarly 
without any consumption of energy, and the liberated 
carbon would be capable of new work." But we 
do not find the " slightest trace of the living organism 
being capable of producing any quantum of work 
whatever without a corresponding expenditure of 

This sounds well enough. Two details only seem 
to have been overlooked. First, the fact that a bar 
of sealing-wax to which friction has been applied 
can temporarily suspend the gravity of, say, little 
pieces of paper or of little balls of pith. In the 
second place. Vitalism never asserted anything in 
violation of the law of the Conservation of Energy, 
for the very simple reason that no one was yet 
conscious of its universal validity. But then 
Helmholtz might object that the law had been 
unconsciously violated, and that this violation was a 
necessary feature of all Vitalism. But in that case 
he could have laid claim to but a superficial know- 
ledge of vitalistic literature ? He ought at least 
to have known the work of Johannes Miiller. Yet, 
as we have seen above, it is precisely Miiller in 
whom we find indications of an anticipation of the 



postulate of a " source of energy " for life ^ : but who 
was nevertheless an adherent of the doctrine of the 
autonomy of life. 

Thus, there is not so very much to be said for the 
refutation of Vitalism on the ground of the law of 
the Conservation of Energy : and Helmholtz is as 
incapable as other opponents ^ of producing any 
better objections. 

We may then repeat at the close of the whole 
section of our book which deals with the older 
Vitahsm what we said at the beginning of the present 
chapter. The prevailing Vitalism was not crushed 
by " refutations " ; most of the critics dealt only 
with its exaggerations, and their " refutations " 
did not touch it at all, but only effected certain 
consequences conveniently attributed to it by the 
critical imagination. Vitalism died of itself. 

That it should have so died, though stiU apparently 
at its zenith — as the doctrine of the schools — is to 
be explained by a cause that lies particularly deep. 

The problems of the physiology of morpho- 
genesis had already, since the beginning of the 
nineteenth century, lost their hold on the interest 
of biologists. But these problems are the peculiar 
province of Vitalism, whence alone it really derives 

' In the second part of this book we deal with the facts of the 
relation of Ufe to energy. 

" Here we may mention Karl Ludwig, who in the first volume 
of his Lehrbuch der Physiologie des Menschen (second edition, 
Leipzig and Heidelberg, 1858) rejects Vitahsm and refers to 
Dubois. But he is far from adopting the definite tone of Dubois. 
He makes certain " clear demands " of Vitahsm and rejects it 
as unable to satisfy these demands ; though had this not been the 
case he declares that he would never oppose the hypothesis, 
however novel the arguments used in its favour. 


its strength, at least in so far as it does not also 
claim the " soul " as its object. 

The New Vitalism, to the consideration of which 
we are about to turn, arose, in conformity with what 
has been said, mainly as a result of the newly 
awakened Physiology of development. 

We may, in conclusion, say a few words with 
regard to the state of psychology during the decline 
of Vitalism. Psychology, as soon as it studies the 
behaviour of men as phenomena of movement and 
seeks to establish laws, must come strictly under 
the heading of Natural Science, and even of Biology 
• — and it is, therefore, both characteristic and com- 
prehensible that the doctrine of so-called psycho- 
physical parallelism flourished contemporaneously 
with materialistic science during the decadence of 

Human action was thus also subordinated to the 
general materialism ; any natural event in it was 
a mechanical event. A " soul," or whatever name 
we like to choose, is not an element in the causality 
of nature.^ 

Johannes Miiller, and even Lotze, the opposer of 

vegetative Vitalism, had thought otherwise on this 

question of man's behaviour. 

1 This is a suitable place to mention the original contribution 
of E. Hering : Uber das Oeddchtnis ala eine allgemeine Funhtion 
der organisierten Materie (Vienna, 1876). Hering had an open 
mind, which allowed him to see in memory and in the capacity for 
reproduction something analogous though very strange. But he 
was too much influenced by the parallelistic theory to be able to 
say • there is something new, something not inorganic here. 
Hence, all his psychological expressions are only metaphorical, 
and natural events are always really interpreted from the materia- 
listic point of view. 


Everything connected with Psychology wiU have 
its place in this book only in an accessory manner, 
and will concern us only when it is turned to account 
by its representatives in a general, bio-theoretical 
form ; it will, therefore, be as a side-issue that we 
shall later on have to explain how with the awakening 
of Vitalism there went, to use terms not very accurate 
but yet intelligible, an awakening of " psycho- 
physical causality." This, however, implies the 
downfall of the theory of psycho-physical parallelism. 



A TRUE doctrine is never completely extinguished. 
It may for a time be out-shouted by its opponents, 
but there are always a few who, whatever may befall, 
pursue their way, heedless of all the uproar of the 
day. And indeed, things were not pleasant for the 
few who, when materialism was at its zenith, 
guarded the tradition of the old, i.e. of the vitalistic 
biology. People would have preferred to have 
locked them up in madhouses, had not " senility " 
" excused " them up to a certain point. 

Thus it was that in spite of all opposition, the 
tradition of Vitalism was handed on. And — apart 
from botany, which always remained intact — there 
was also preserved, at any rate by a few, the tradition 
of a method of animal morphology which set out 
not merely to " compare," but also to establish 

The Darwinian school studied the construction 
and development of animals only so as to compare 
them one with another, and to concoct genealogical 


trees with the help of their comparisons. Their 
work was historical. But the old morphology had 
sought by means of anatomy and embryology to 
establish the laws, if any, which actually controlled 
morphological phenomena. It sought, in fact, to 
discover what morphogenesis reaUy was. It sought, 
moreover, to construct what was typical in the 
varieties of forms, into a system which should be not 
merely historically determined, but which should 
be intelligible from a higher and more rational stand- 

It is to the lasting credit of the late Wilhelm His 
that he kept alive at any rate the principle of this 
method of truly rational morphology, and the work 
of Alexander Goette should not be forgotten. It was 
to these writers that the later " Mechanics of 
Development " attached itself, with its claim that 
morphology should take its place amongst the real 

His and Goette had recognised that the true 
processes of morphogenesis which appear in the 
development of the individual require actual and 
efficient causes for each single realisation. But it 
was just this condition, without which no laws of 
formation could be scientifically established, that 
advocates of phylogenesis had overlooked. They 
allowed " heredity " to stand as the cause of morpho- 
genetic processes, a theory which exhibited in a 
new and aggravated form the same logical Meakness 
as that theory of the old nature-philosophy which 
allowed the ideas to be sufficient grounds for the 
organic form. In both cases the link was missing 
which should unite the general to the particular. 

THE TKAiJiiiUJN 151 

But to resume : the next among the writers 
who handed on the real VitaHsm, or at least a 
teleological conception of forms of life, was the aged 
Baer, who again and again in the sixties and seventies 
put forward his view in speeches and lectures.^ 

It did not contain much that was new, as the part 
which Baer played in the old Vitalism was a second- 
ary, or rather a dependent one. But small as it 
was, it was good that his contribution should have 
been made. In all his teleological exposition, Baer 
enters the lists as an opponent of Darwinism, and 
we may say here once and for all that all who 
during the ascendancy of materialism preserved the 
vitalistic tradition, were at the same time opponents 
of orthodox, i.e. materiahstic, Darwinism. Indeed, 
it was in its opposition to the theory founded on 
chance that the tradition maintained its strength. 

Baer's treatment of the subject strikes us now as 
brilliant rather than precise, and it is hard to have 
a very definite conception of what is meant when we 
learn that he regarded the life-process not as the 
result of the organic construction, but " the rhythm 
and also the melody to which the organic body 
constructs and transforms itself." The definition 
also of the life-processes as " creative thoughts which 
build up their own bodies of themselves," and his 
likening of type and specificity to " harmony and 
melody," are still only metaphors. 

He is far more expKcit in regarding the impulse 
as " something primitive, i.e. which does not proceed 
from the bodily constitution but stands over and 

1 C. E. V. Baer, Reden und Abhaiidlungen, Braunschweig, second 
edition, 1886. 


above it " as " a completion of the life-process." 
In a happy phrase he calls " conscience " the 
" highest form of instinct." 

He is obscure again where he describes the contro- 
versy about the life-force as " futUe " ; and Blumen- 
bach's "nisus formativus " is not very aptly placed 
on the same plane as the " faculties " of a Fabricus 
ab Acquapendente,^ the fabrication of a barren 
schematism. That Baer has in view a true Vitalism 
and not merely one of static teleology, although he 
does not see the fundamental distinction between 
them, is quite clearly shown by the statement that 
" the whole life process is in no way the result of 
physico-chemical events, but rather controls them." 
For him life is a process with peculiar laws of develop- 
ment. Exception might be taken here to certain 
details in the wording. 

Of Baer's other contributions we need only 
mention that he corrected the so-caUed " biogenetic 
principle " of the Darwinians by pointmg out that 
the history of development indicated only the 
" transition from general to more specific relations, 
but not the transition from one specific relation 
to another." He expressed an exactly similar view 
upon this important point when he declared that as 
an embryo man does not pass through the fish stage, 
but man and fish both pass through the same 
general, less specified stage. 

Human actions, the " life of the soul " objectified, 

1 The teacher of Harvey. He held that three processes, 
generation, development and nutrition, are required for the pro- 
duction of a chicken. Each process needs two forces. Thus, 
we get six faculties — immutatrix, formatrix, attractrix, retentrix, 
cuicentrix, expultrix. 


cannot, according to Baer, be analysed in terms of 
matter, as is maintained in the doctrine of parallelism; 
they represent an elementary autonomous fact. 
In quite modern phraseology Baer points out how, 
for instance, the effect of one and the same piece of 
news differs completely in the case of different 
persons, according to their previous history. 

So much for the vitalistic conception as maintained 
by Baer in spite of all attacks and misrepresentations. 
Its existence is important to the history of Vitalism, 
even though it has not added to our actual fund of 
theories. Baer, a writer of high repute owing to 
his services in the realm of embryology, could indulge 
in his Vitalism without actually incurring abuse. In 
the same way it was even tolerated when a man like 
the founder of cellular pathology occasionally stated 
that he was not really quite convinced of the possi- 
biHty of the mechanistic interpretation of all life- 
processes : though it is true that Virchow's theories, 
as also later the statements of his follower 
Rindfleisch, move only along the most general and 
accepted lines. 

J. V. Hanstein ^ again was excused for disloyaltj' 
to the spirit of the age on the ground of his service 
in another field. He was stUl more definite in the 
statement of his views, though his theories contain 
nothing new. With reference to formation out of 
the germ, and contemporary mechanistic theories, 
he asks : How,in the first stages of construction, does 
everything come to be rightly divided, since for every 
formation an initial nucleus must be packed up in 

' Johannes von Hanstein, Das Protoplasma als Trdger der 
pflanzUchen und tierischen Lebenserscheinungen, Heidelberg, 1880. 


the egg ? Must there not be orgamsing architects 
to direct the multitude of mosaic fragments ? He 
rightly adduces in support of his thesis the processes 
of regeneration. The Aristotelian statement that 
the whole is prior to the parts, still holds good, he 
says, to-day. 

Organisms are controlled by a faculty of self- 
formation, and animals have also a similar power of 
movement. It is closely connected with the pre- 
sence of certain material combinations, which it has 
ordered and controls ; it distributes itself among 
them, and when two or more such material groups 
unite, then the centres of activity also unite into one. 

Here we see how some of the ideas of the old 
Vitalism are once again timidly appearing. 

That Hanstein should subject the theory of 
Natural Selection to the sharpest criticism was only 
to be expected ; but the man who, though not 
remarkable as an experimenter, must be regarded 
as the really classic critic of Darwinism is Albert 
Wigand. Wigand was not so easily forgiven for 
his criticism and for his assertion, really a very timid 
one, of vital autonomy. 

I can myself bear witness that even so late as the 
end of the eighties it was hardly considered respect- 
able to speak of Wigand's great Critique^ in any but 
the most disparaging terms, or to regard the man as 
other than an utter idiot. 

We have here as little concern with Wigand's 
critical work as we have with criticism of Darwinism 
in general. We have to do with the positive element 

^ Darwinismus und die Naturforschung Newtons und Cuviers, 
3 vols., Braunschweig, 1874-7. See particularly vol. ii. chapter 3. 


which is to be found in his achievement, and we 
must at least briefly refer to the fact that his criticism 
of the scientific formation of concepts exhibits great 
independence, and raises him entirely above the 
verdict of tradition. I would designate Wigand 
as the first exponent of that scientific criticism of 
concepts which was later founded systematically by 
Mach. Let us not forget at this point that Schopen- 
hauer, and in certain respects Blumenbach, had in 
reality also been precursors of the new tendency. 

Wigand's attitude to the problem of Vitalism is 
clear from his epistemological position. The ques- 
tion whether there is a life force by means of which 
we can explain vital phenomena, which is unique, 
and does not operate in the rest of nature, is to be 
answered partly in the affirmative, partly in the 
negative. In the affirmative, if force is to mean 
nothing more than what the words electricity and 
gravity mean ; in the negative, if there is meant a 
supernatural principle independent of the universal 
laws of nature, which does not manifest itself through 
the law of cause and effect. 

Even in the former sense the life force would not 
explain anything — any more than those other forces 
which also are only names for some " qualitas 
occulta " ; indeed, it accomplished rather less, owing 
to the lack of any quantitative import. In any case 
we may at least admit a life force, so long as all the 
known agencies fail to explain life. 

It is clear that Wigand does not approach the 
actual question of the proof of " Vitalism " at all,i 

' I cannot forbear quoting an apposite passage from ZoUner's 
Natur der Kometen (1872), which Wigand cites : " The assumption 


but he expresses himself more definitely on the 
subject of teleology in the organism in general, and 
in indicating the large amount of static (mechanical) 
teleology which is actually to be found in the con- 
struction of the organised being, e.g. of the eye. 
This necessarily constitutes the main point in his 
critique of Darwinism, since it is just the purposive- 
ness in a complex organic formation which makes 
the theory of chance appear so absurd. The 
question of Vitahsm could here afford to step into 
the background. 

Wigand succeeded as little as the other traditional 
Vitalists whom we have mentioned in exerting any 
influence upon the thought of his time. Perhaps the 
attitude which they adopted was too tentative ; 
perhaps the ground was all too unprepared in the 
seventies ; perhaps their time was not ripe. 

This last supposition is rendered more probable 
when we consider the attention aroused about the 
year 1890 by views in reality far less clearly defined 
with regard to Vitalism than any of those previously 
mentioned. I refer to the writings of G. v. Bunge. 
Indeed, even the obscure utterances of Rindfleisch, 
buttressed as they were by the theological point of 
view and undeserving of a closer examination here, 
succeeded in attracting the attention of the pubhc. 
Times evidently had changed. 

In his essay " Mechanism and Vitalism," ^ which 

of a new property of matter would only be necessary when it 
had been logically proved that in the nature of the phenomena 
conceptual elements were involved which were not in the 
properties hitherto attributed to matter and which cannot be 
deduced from it." 

1 The first section in his Handbook. 


he later changed without advantage into " Mechan- 
ism and Idealism " — and into which he quite illegiti- 
mately, from the standpoint of theory of knowledge, 
introduced psychological questions — ^Bimge is very 
far from making a decisive stand for Vitalism. 

But it is all only provisional, only an admission 
that the mechanistic conception is " not yet " 
sufficient. Indeed, it is Bunge who, when face to 
face with the most complicated of all the facts 
adduced by him as stiU unexplained, says : "I 
admit unconditionally the possibility that some day 
all those phenomena wiU find a purely mechanistic 
explanation." Thus we have here a thoroughly 
problematic Vitalism with even an inclination to the 
opposite view. 

In truth, that Bunge should have been unhesitat- 
ingly accepted as a Vitalist shows how extraordinarily 
alien to the times was the whole conception of the 
vitalistic problem ; it shows, on the other hand, 
that now at last it was being reahsed that there 
might, problematically at least, be something more 
than materialistic dogmatism. 

For Bunge had not taken sides with Vitalism any 
more decisively than, for instance. His, when the 
latter left it undecided at the outset whether any 
part of the earlier content of the conception of the 
life force could be resuscitated in a formula more 
precise and in a terminology more suited to the age. 

But Bunge had led us within sight of the most 
recent phase of our subject. We have dealt with 
him here because he at once belongs to, and yet in a 
certain sense cuts himself off from, the line of the 
other German upholders of the vitalistic tradition. 


We must now turn back for a moment, in order 
to form an estimate of the philosophy of the seventies 
and eighties as regards the VitaHstic problem. 


The fact that we now propose to examine the 
attitude of philosophy towards Vitahsm, and head 
our first section with the name of Eduard von Hart- 
mann, might give the impression that we regard 
Hartmann as typical of the new philosophy. 

Hartmaim is, as a matter of fact, anything but a 
typical representative of modern philosophy, but 
he is the only modem philosopher who comes into 
consideration for the problem of Vitalism . According 
to the plan of our work Hartmann's metaphysic of 
the Unconscious concerns us as a system just as 
little as the Rationalism of Hegel or the VolitionaJism 
of Schopenhauer. It must suffice to state that 
Hartmann's whole philosophy is biological, i.e. is 
based upon biology, but that, with regard to morpho- 
genesis, the so-called instincts, and the relation 
between psychical and physical in the actions of man, 
he construes biology in every respect as Vitalism. 


Only two trains of thought in Hartmann's philo- 
sophy are of immediate interest to the historian of 
biology as natural science. 

One of them is purely conceptual and connected 
with the metaphysical scheme of the universe 
constructed by the philosopher : factors of con- 
sciousness are with him opposed to factors of the 
unconscious ; but between these two principal 
factors there may be causal relations of a four-fold 
kind. Causal relation between factors of the same 
group Hartmann calls isotropic causality, and 
aUotropic causality is its opposite. As the higher 
living beings consist of factors of both kinds and 
constitute " individuals," we get the conceptions 
of intraindividualist and interindividuaJist causality. 
Consequently, the so-called " psycho-physical causa- 
lity," which with Hartmann takes the place of 
" psycho-physical parallelism," is allotropic intra- 
individual causality ; between two individuals there 
takes place directly, as far as we have definite know- 
ledge,^ only interindividual isotropic causality, and 
this in the unconscious sphere. 

We may close this introduction with the remark 
that Hartmann's point of view is that of " critical 
realism," and not the strictly ideaUstic standpoint 
from which we are considering these problems. 
This leads us on to examine his opinions concerning 
the action of the vital factors of life in the system of 
the material factors of the organism : for his fictitious 
realism, which makes the whole of the material 

^ Telepathic action would, of course, imply either inter- 
individual isotropic causality in the field of the factors of con- 
sciousness, or interindividual allotropic causality. 


factors ultimately the work of a real mechanical 
system, renders it necessary to investigate this action. 

What we describe simply as material factors, Hart- 
mann calls strictly " materiant agents," i.e. agents 
which bring about the appearance of the material. 
Now all such agents have a potential and are divisible 
into central forces. But the life-agents are not 
"materiant agents" and have no potential, nor 
are they combinations of " central forces." How 
can they work upon the totality of the material 
system without destroying the so-caUed principles 
of energy which constitute the foundation of aU that 
happens in it, and yet be in opposition to the inor- 
ganic which for Hartmann's mechanical realism is 
nothing but mechanics ? 

Hartmann's theory is of special importance for 
the history of Vitalism, because it is the first attempt 
to make a precise apphcation of the doctrine of the 
autonomy of life, namely, to make out exactly the 
relation of the elementary hfe-factors to the factors 
of the inorganic.^ So he gives to a theoretical 
consequence of Vitalism a scientific content. But 
Hartmann's theory touches less upon Vitalism as a 
question of fact. He offers no rigorous demonstration 
of the impossibility of a mechanical solution of life. 

A metaphysical conception, not an investigation of 

detaUs, constitutes the real centre of Hartmann's 

philosophy ; and we may conclude our remarks 

by recording that this philosopher, whose fruitful 

career has recently been brought to a close, saw in 

' This endeavour is not found, as was assumed, in certain 
passages in Maxwell and Helmholtz (see Driesch, Naturbegriffe 
und Naturrurteile, Leipzig, 1904, p. 102 ff.). It is, however, 
implied in some expressions of Lord Kelvin and of L. Boltzmann. 


" finality," in opposition to Kant, a pure Category ^ 
which has its place by the side of substance and 


We have said that Hartmann is almost the only 
philosopher of the last decades who comes under 
discussion in a history of Vitalism ; indeed, we 
should hke to make mention of only one other 
representative of general philosophy — Otto Lieb- 

With the exception of Hartmann, Liebmann is 
almost the only modern " philsopher " who has 
entered on a critical discussion of the problems of 
life, and emancipated himself from the mechanistic 
dogmas of Darwinism. Though he does not prove 
Vitalism, yet he at least regards it as a possibility, 
and he sees, for example, the historical importance 
of an Alexander Ooetle ; he at any rate has doubts 
where the theory of the age gave no possibility of 

Liebmann's entirely critical treatment is unsuitable 
for a short summary. ^ We will merely refer to his 
characteristic predilection for the Aristotehan ex- 
pression " Entelechy," which was also used by 
Goethe and occasionally by Baer. 


Vitalism becomes a much wider problem when we 
include in it the question of what is the relation of 
the soul or mind to nature. But it has been our 

' Kategorienlehre. 

^ Compare my article in Kantstudien, xv. 1910, p. 86. 



principle so far to consider the problem of psycho- 
physics only in those cases where psychological 
writers themselves have seen the general importance 
of their theories, as was the case, for instance, with 
J. Miiller. 

Modem writers have rarely if ever connected 
Psychology with the vitalistic problem. Hardly any 
have ever recognised the close relation between the 
problem of mind and body and real Vitahsm. It 
is strange that not even physiologists Mke Pfliiger 
and Goltz have seen this close connexion. I am 
not thinking here of Pfliiger's Teleological Mechanics,'^ 
where the teleology was purely formal, and reaUy 
said very little with its statement that every need 
is the cause of its satisfaction ; but rather of his 
theory about the " Riickenmarksseele " — the faculty 
of the spinal cord of frogs, deprived of their whole 
brain, to react to stimuli in a manner which resembles 
action. In the case of Goltz I refer to the conception 
of the " Antwortsreaktion " — the capability of 
reaction in frogs deprived of the hemispheres but 
possessing more of their central system than the 
mere spinal cord — which was based on his endeavours 
to locate the soul of the frog.^ Pfliiger claims to 
have shown for the functions of the spinal marrow, 
and Goltz for those of the so-called lower brain- 
centres, that their complication and their free 
variability is too great for a machine to be assumed 
as their basis. Hence, we must adopt an animistic 

' Bonn, 1877. 

2 Beitrage zur Lehre von den Funktionen der Neroenzentren 
des Froaches, Berlin, 1869,- 


Here we have VitaKsm pure and simple. It is 
very strange that like Lotze, neither Pfliiger nor 
Goltz are clear in their minds that for a part of vital 
phenomena at any rate this view implies a theory 
of the autonomy of life, and the rejection of psycho- 
physical parallelism. 

If Me pass from the theories of the physiologists 
Pfliiger and Goltz to the theories of the psycholo- 
gists, it is, as we said above, the question of paral- 
lelism which concerns a history of Vitalism. It 
must suffice here to say that although psychological 
parallelism is stUl the prevailing theory, the voices 
of those (even apart from v. Hartmann) who support 
psycho-physical causahty are growing ever louder. 
We may mention Bussc ^ as one of the latest type of 
psychological champion of this view, and those who 
wish wiU find in his writings an account of the most 
recent German ^ literature on this subject. 


The American biologist and philosopher who, 
though originally a physician, for many years 
dedicated a quiet hfe in the south of the United 
States to the study of the principal problems of life, 
is stUl comparatively unknown. 

We cannot saj" that Edmund Montgomery really 
discovered a new foundation for Vitalism, and we 
have therefore ranged him with the vitalistic philo- 

^Geist iind Kwper, Leipzig, 1903. 

" In France Henri Bergson [Jlatiere et Mc'moire) is the chief 
advocate of psycho-physical causality ; in England, W. McDougall 
(Body and Mind) ; see also vol. ii. of my own Gifiord Lectures. 


sophers of the last decades. He has, however, 
treated the whole problem of vital autonomy so 
originally, with such a peculiar combination of 
science and philosophy, that we believe he deserves 
individual consideration.^ 

In spite of the work of Kant and Berkeley, Mont- 
gomery adopts a metaphysical realism, and it is 
this realist Metaphysics that makes possible his 
solution of the problems of the ego and of the 
individual organisation. 

Sense-experience does not remain to us a mere 
mosaic of elements, but it becomes integrated by 
synthesis, it becomes a complex unity. The 
bodily organism on the other hand, is an indis- 
cerptible whole, not a divisible aggregate. The 
solution of both problems alike lies in a rightly 
formulated concept of substance. As a result of 
his realistic metaphysics Montgomery imagines his 
substance as a specific chemical combination after 
the manner of Rail ; but from the specificity of this 
life-substance he arrives at special new laws. The 
combination as such, which certainly is not regarded 

^ From the point of view of Vitalism the principal writings of 
Montgomery are : " The Substantiality of Life "' (Mind, 1881, 
p. 321) ; " On the Theory of Muscular Contraction " (Pfluger's 
Archiv, 25, 1891) ; " To be alive, what is it ? " (Uonist, 1895) ; 
Of primary importance for epistomology and psychology are : 
" The Dependence of Quality on Specific Energies " (Mind, 
1880) ; " The Object of Knowledge " (Mind, 1884) ; " Mental 
Activity " (Mind, 1890) ; " The Integration of Mind " (Mind, 
1895) ; " Are we Conscious Automata ? " (Texas Acad. Sc, 1896), 
and a few other works. In 1904 there appeared his book The 
Vitality and Organization of Protoplasm (Austin, Texas, 1904). 
In 1907 he published his Philosophical Problems in the Light of 
Vital Organization (New York), which sums up his views on the 
whole question. 


as a chemical unit, a mere aggregate of separate 
molecules, has a controlling power over the organisa- 
tion, as it also realises the synthesis of the manifold 
in the conception of the ego ; it is the identical, 
indivisible, perdurable, and self-sustaining substance, 
of which the transient phenomena arising in con- 
sciousness are but inherent affections. A certain 
similarity to Hartmann's views is noticeable here, 
and an " Unconscious " often appears in Mont- 
gomery's works as basis for consciousness. 

In matters more properly vitalistic, Montgomery 
expressly opposes any machine-theory as a basis 
in itself of organic phenomena ; and bases his 
objection on an analysis of the movement of proto- 
plasm, of the contraction of muscles, of the divisi- 
bility of infusoria, and of regeneration in general. It 
is the life-substance that constantly restores its own 
integrity, and he is not here thinking of chemical 
influences of a similar kind at all. Assimilation in 
a way becomes to him the most important of aU 
biological phenomena, but it is the result of an 
inwardly constituted autonomy. There are, he 
says, evidently forces genetically organised at work 
here, and these forces one can only regard as specific 

When we come to expound our own views, it will 
be seen that we find it impossible to accept either 
Montgomery's realistic metaphysics, or his vital 
substance. But this does not diminish his historical 
importance : he is a Vitalist as regards the principal 
question, and even uses the word " autonomous." 
Where he is really original is in his unique method, 
which, whether it meet with our approval or not, is 


as acutely applied as it is conceived. His method 
is the endeavour to solve conjointly the two problems 
of integration, referring the one to the organism and 
the other to psychic life. But, besides his methods, 
Montgomery has another claim on our attention, and 
that is his peculiar recognition and formulation of 
just those two problems from which, though perhaps 
in a somewhat different form, every Vitalism must, as 
a matter of fact, take its start. His formulation of 
the problem which arises from the analysis of action 
seems to us particularly happy ; but the problem of 
organisation is not sufficiently analysed for a proof 
to be possible. 

If Montgomery had presented his concept of 
substance as a category, instead of as a chemical 
substance, we should have been able to agree with 
his views almost completely. 


If we knew more actual facts about the descent 
of the organism than we do, we should have to 
analyse in some detail the views which have been 
expressed about the laws of a phylogenetic evolution, 
supposing that such really occurs ; and we should 
have to ask if these Jaws were mechanical or vitalistic. 

Since, however, even the most simple facts with 
regard to descent are purely hypothetical, all the 
general laws of descent, inasmuch as they represent 
purely imaginary constructions, are without any real 
scientific value. 

In his theory of mutation, de Vries, like many 
enquirers into the formationof hybrids and variations, 
and some entomologists of a quite recent date, has 
endeavoured to ascertain the actual facts of the 
derivation of one species from another, and to 
demonstrate such derivation, at any rate in part, by 
exact methods. But there is still no question of 
any real immanent law having been established in 
so far as a real descent is concerned, that is to say, 
in so far as it is a question of mutation. 


Hence, we cannot do more than give the names 
of the supporters of a general non-Darwinian theory 
of descent under the various forms of law of evolution 
or of perfection or of organic growth, all of them 
representing an autonomous and vitalistic law of 
organic transformation.^ This is not an objection ^ 
against men like Kolliker, Wigand, Nageli, Eimer, 
and others, to whom we must add Herbert Spencer ; 
for their more or less thorough opposition to the 
pure Darwinian theory of chance was at any rate 
a valuable service. We may add here the general 
remark that a view of the problem of descent 
opposed to Darwinism would be either vitalistic or 
mechanical : in both cases it would be distinguished 
from the principle that the species is a product of 
chance in the Darwinian sense. But at first sight, 
that is to say without a deeper analysis of the facts 
than we are at present in a position to undertake, 
it would be quite conceivable that organic species 
are not the result of an elementary autonomous law 

^ The Neo-Lamarckians, a special group of Anti-Darwinians, 
of which Samuel Butler was the first representative, will be 
briefly mentioned later. An immanent evolutionary law is not 
established by this group of thinkers. 

^ We often find non-Darwinian theories of descent united with 
theories of ontogenetic development which endeavour to explain 
matters by imaginary pictures drawn from a pseudo-mechanical 
source. Even Darwinians, as for example, Weismann, apart 
from Darwin himself, have imagined a development of this sort, 
and we need only add the names of Spencer, Nageli, ^^'iesne^. 
We cannot here examine these fancy pictmres more closely : 
they are themselves for the most part somewhat confused, and 
the real problem of Vitalism is only accounted for in a very 
obscure manner, if at all, in their constructions. For the most 
part they are only photographs of the problems, and thej' are well 
criticised in Montgomery's book. The Vitality and Organization 
of Protoplasm. 


but of a pre-established configuration of cosmic 
factors. Those, however, who reject the machine 
theory for individual morphogenesis will not be likely 
to admit it as an explanation of descent in a form 
which has only hypothetical justification. 


The newest phase in the history of Vitalism has 
been termed Neovitalism, though the designation 
is not quite suitable ; for at no time have vitalistic 
theories completely died out, as those who gave the 
name and in particular Emil du Bois-Reymond, 
seemed to imagine. 

In a different sense, however, the last epoch of 
vitalistic thought may be styled new, in virtue, 
that is to say, of its whole procedure, at any rate 
as regards the methods of many of its representatives. 
We may therefore adopt the term. 

The novelty in the method is connected, though 
its authors are not aware of the fact, with the pro- 
cedure adopted by Vitahsm in the eighteenth, and 
not with the prevailing theories of the nineteenth 
century. It goes once more back to foundations, 
and does not only deal with the imphcations of a 
doctrine accepted without question. Once more an 
endeavour is made to prove on one ground or another 
that the vitalistic view of life, and only this view, is 
necessarily true. In the eighteenth century this 
resulted from the struggle with materialism ; it 


now makes its appearance after the struggle with 
Darwinism. It is thus due to its enemies that 
Vitalism once more raises its head. The best 
opponents of the traditional Vitalism have actually 
been of direct service in causing its re-birth ; they 
purified it of many errors and it became aU the more 
clear that there was a kernel of truth at its centre. 
The cause of the real establishment of Neovitalism 
was, as we have mentioned, the reappearance of 
experimental morphology, the "mechanics of develop- 
ment " represented by W. Roux. All new facts 
which support the theory of the autonomy of life 
have been won in this field of investigation, with the 
exception, of course, of those which are derived 
from the analysis of human action. This is not, of 
course, quite what the initiator of this method 
imagined. His conviction of the truth of the 
mechanical view seems curiously enough to have 
grown stronger as the years went by : for at the 
beginning of his experimental work he at any rate 
left the question of Vitalism open.^ 

For the theoretical development of the logical 
consequences derived from the principle of Neo- 
vitalism, two considerations are of importance. 
On the one hand, the new theory of knowledge, in 

' Cf. W. Roux, Ahhandlungen, ii p. 188 ff. : " Whoever does 
not regard as self-evident and not needing demonstration, which 
would be a common " petitio principii," what ought to be the 
final result of our researches, ought to keep in mind in causal 
investigations into embryology that it is at any rate questionable 
whether the processes which he observes can be regarded as the 
result of forces already known ; or whether they necessitate 
special " modes of action " such as diSerentiating action from a 
distance and so forth, and thus lead to the assumption of special 
forms of energy." 


so far as it was original and not a mere repetition 
of Kant, had given rise to a rigorous subjectivism, 
which in its turn put an end to a mechanistic 
metaphysic. And in the second place, the science 
of inorganic nature had acquired in its best repre- 
sentatives, as for instance in Maeh, a special kind of 
conceptual method, and became conscious that, since 
it is the business of science merely to describe 
phenomena, every question of absolute existence is 
outside its sphere. We shall later have to describe 
how Neovltalism incorporated the newly acquired 
body of knowledge, which, however, does not 
necessitate so complete a rejection of the philosophy 
of Kant as many modern writers seem to think, but 
rather tends to justify that philosophy. 

In considering Neovltalism from an historical 
point of view we shall, of course, particularly in this 
section, have to confine ourselves to what is really 
typical. It may seem, on first thoughts, that William 
Roux should be mentioned as the earliest Neo- 
vitalist, for he has repeatedly maintained that, at 
least in functional adaptation, organic development 
is directly influenced by non-mechanical or psychical 
factors. He gives as an example the strengthening 
of the muscles by exercise, in which the psychical 
factors, the will or the instinct of self-preservation, 
are essential determining forces. 

But Roux never analysed these opinions and 
never asserted that they directly implied vitahstic 
forces, even in a restricted field. We shall, then, 
not be mistaken in holding that Roux merely took 
over these views as a legacy from certain earher 
theorists, in considering him in fact as a " traditional 


Vitalist." In this he is like Lotze who, in spite of 
his rejection of vegetative Vitalism, attributed all 
possible functions to the " soul " without seeing that 
they, too, were expressions of Vitalism. 

In 1890 F. Ehrhardt published Mechanismus und 
Teleologie, a work written, as was usual in the days 
of the older Vitalism, for the express purpose of 
proving the logical possibUity of a vitalistic con- 
ception of life, and emphasising the essential need 
of its acceptance. The mechanistic theory, which 
fails in many branches of physics and chemistry is, 
according to Ehrhardt, far less comprehensive than 
the causal theory. Teleology is not the antithesis 
of causality, but subordinate to it. It is, of course, 
inadmissible to consider " final causes " as implying 
that an object or end is capable of having effect. No 
event that has not yet taken place can possibly act. 
But results are caused by the keeping of the end in 
view, and it is in this way that the final becomes an 
efficient cause. These final efficient causes are not 
in the slightest degree metaphysical, for they derive 
from organic matter. 

This will suffice to show that the method of 
Ehrhardt's work is of much positive value. The 
part in which he tries objectively to prove his 
assertion is weaker, though still worthy of attention. 
For, if the theory that the will has power to deter- 
mine action were based solely upon inner experience, 
and if nutrition and reproduction were to be regarded 
as expressions of pure vitalistic causaHty merely 
because they rest on instinct, it could not have the 
same weight as when demonstrated by accurate 
scientific investigation. 


Of much more significance is a thought which 
Ehrhardt expressed in his polemic against the static 
teleology of Lotze. He urged that a static con- 
ception of the organism must be rejected not only 
for the minor reason that it did not throw light on 
the problems of nutrition and reproduction, and only 
deferred their solution, but also because it failed to 
take into account the constancy of the vital processes 
which do not act as if by chance, but are daUy 
producing millions of typical organisms. For the 
same reason, the mechanical explanations of elec- 
tricity or magnetism cannot be maintained. Physics, 
too, has its own fixed and constant laws, which, if 
they had resulted from the combination of more 
simple natural laws, would most certainly have been 
fluctuating and only approximately valid. 

It may well be that no evidence of Vitalism will be 
found in this direction, but the line of thought, at 
any rate, is original, and, if only for that reason, is 
worthy of notice. This cannot be said for Ehrhardt's 
further contributions to positive Vitalism, in which 
he supports a theory of a sort of vital matter. When 
certain chemical substances are combined in a 
special way, they result not only in chemical, but 
also in specifically organic forces. Although, there- 
fore, this spontaneous generation is actually pro- 
duced only by chance, the causes of its existence 
are fixed according to natural law. 

Gustav Wolff's excellent critique of Darwinism 
appeared in 1890, and fully merits its great reputa- 
tion. In spite of being (without any reflection on 
its originality) behind the times as a criticism of 
Darwinism, it is the first of its kind, arising, as it 


does, from the clear conviction that the fall of 
Darwinism will bring a simultaneous revival of 
teleology of great significance. 

In the year 1894, Wolff followed his critique by 
an experiment which was expressly undertaken as 
a solution of the question : Darwinism or teleology. 
His aim was to see whether an organism could restore 
an organ extracted from it for the first time in its 
development, and to examine how this restitution 
was accomplished. " Primary finality " was to be 
proved by the positive outcome of the experiment, 
which would, on the one hand, reduce Darwinism 
ad absurdum, and, on the other, through the fact 
of purposive adaptation, go to support teleology in a 
very significant form. 

The experiment consisted in the extraction of the 
lens, and nothing but the lens, from the eye of a 
water-newt (Triton taniatus). A new lens was 
generated, growing from the outer edge of the iris 
in a way which, though not corresponding to the 
ordinary development,^ was, nevertheless, most 
suitable for the purpose in question. 

Thus was " primary finality " demonstrated. 

Highly though we value Wolff's acute writings, 
which take a prominent place in modern biological 
literature, it must be pointed out that although he 
proved the significance of teleology he failed to 
demonstrate its methods. His experiment might 
only point to a pre-established static teleology to be 
accepted simply as a given fact. 

Wolff himself, in the works we have mentioned, 
never entered into the difference between static and 

^ In the normal development, the lens grows out from the skin. 


dynamic teleology, although he certainly inclined 
to the latter, that is, to Vitalism. Latterly^ he has, 
it is true, expressed his vitalistic views more definitely, 
affirming that much is stiU inexplicable. I still 
doubt whether his experiment could in itself demon- 
strate the methods of teleology. 

For the rest, Wolff, in his psychiatric works,^ fully 
accepts the autonomy of psychic life and this, of 
course, is quite vitalistic. 

In 1893, influenced particularly by the methodo- 
logical writings of Wigand and Paul du Bois-Rey- 
mond,* I myseK came clearly to see that teleology 
is an irreducible peculiarity of the phenomena of life. 
Critical analysis of physiological and morpho- 
genetic phenomena led me to this conclusion. As 
yet I had not realised the difference between static 
and dynamic teleology, and my work Die Biologie 
als selbstandige Grundwissenschaft (1893, 2nd ed. 
1911), vacfllated, without my knowledge, between 
the recognition of a creative principle and a natural 
mechanistic teleology. In 1894 I expressed in my 
Analytische Theorie der organischen Entwicklung a 
thoroughly mechanical teleology in the form of 
different " given " harmonising means, but here, 
too, I did not perceive that I was pleading for one 

* Mechaniamus und VitaKsmus, Leipzig, 1902. In Biol. Central- 
blatt, 27, 1907, 1 have answered the objections to my own vitaUstio 
views in the second edition of this work. 

"■ E.g. Beitrage z. Lehre v. den Spraclistorungen, Leipzig, 1902. 

^ Uber die Qrundlagen der Erkentnis in den exakten Wissen- 
schaften, Tilbingen, 1890. In this work, the independence of 
every province of physics and chemistry in relation to every other 
is asserted (compare Schopenhauer), and a similar independence 
is explained as possible with regard to Biology. 


of two rival teleological possibilities. When I 
wrote my article on " The Machine Theory of Life " 
in the year 1896, I was fully aware of this difference. 
I repeated, in it, the essential substance of the two 
works mentioned above, for they had in the mean- 
time been misunderstood. I further emphasised 
the fact that my conclusions had supported not 
vitalistic but mechanistic teleology, and pointed 
out that they bore most resemblance to Lotze's 
ideas upon the vegetative functions of life.^ I 
confronted my static theory with its problematic 
antithesis, which, though known to be a possible 
theory of life, had not yet been expressed as such. 
The conceptions later distinguished as static and 
dynamic teleology were already to be found in this 
book, although the words were adopted for the first 
time in my book on localisation, of which I make 
mention below. 

The experiments of several years upon the power 
which organisms possess of regulation of form, and 
continual reflection on the collective results of 
experiments on the physiology of development, upon 
which I had been working since 1891, combined with 
a logical analysis of the concepts of " regulation " 
and " action," brought about an entire change of my 
opinions and the gradual elaboration of a complete 
system of Vitalism. 

Already in 1895 I had become convinced, through 
analysis of the problem of " action," of the necessity 
of Vitalism. Nevertheless, my first pubHcation was 

' I might also have mentioned Goette, whose Law of Form, 
which may here be referred to, imphed a static teleology. Rostan 
too, is of this opinion. For further information, cf. Bernard, ii. 



on the vitalistic theory of a separate problem of 
form-structure, as this subject seemed to me, on 
reflection, of wider application. The publication to 
which I allude came out in the beginning of 1899 
under the title Die Lokalisation morphogenetischer 
Vorgdnge. Ein Beweis vitalistischen Geschehens. This 
is the first work in which it is clearly demon- 
strated that certain at least of the processes of life 
can only be understood as autonomous, obeying 
only their own laws — in a word, as djoiamic-teleo- 

In the work published in 1901 under the title Die 
organischen Begulationen, I examined in the same way 
as I had done in my Lokalisation the collective 
results of the regulative workings of the living body ; 
in this a new proof was added to my former vitalistic 

^,il_1903__m^ my work Die^^^^Sede ' al s elementarer 
NaturfaJctor, lajialjsed humajn action as anjobigctive^ 
pheiioiSenon_of^^moyem£n|^_^ T^^ tli6PEL_ 

.which Jiad^Jieen^ tlie..j:eal.jDutcome=^Qf my vitalistic 
reflections. In the year 1904, under the title' 
Naturbegriffe und Natururteile, I published the 
methodological justification of my system of thought, 
and put it into relation with the concepts established 
in physics and chemistry. In mj' Gifford Lectures 
(1907-08) a complete system of Vitalism was formu- 
lated, and the logical justification of Vitalism formed 
an important part of this system. Additions to 
the logic of Vitalism were made in an article in 
Kantstudien (vol. 16, 1911) and in parts of my 
Ordnungslehre (1912). I need not here discuss 
the contents of these writings, for the concluding 


part of this book will expound them in a concise 
form as a special system of Vitalism. 

In order to appraise the merit of other investiga- 
tions of the vitalistic question we must go back a 
few years. 

In the year 1899 Paul Nikolaus Cossmann 
published his Elemente der empirischen Teleologie 
which was really complete in 1897. This book 
specially sets out to frame a logical definition of the 
concept teleology, and accordingly has several 
points of contact with Kant's Critique of Judgment. 
In its study of actual natural science it is only 
" formally teleological " ; and besides, Cossmann 
understands just as little as Wolff, and as I myself 
in my first writings, the difference between static 
and dynamic teleology. 

Causality, he considers, has universal but not 
exclusive validity, and he places teleology beside 
it as a maxim of judgment. It deals with necessary 
associations, for the idea of necessity is ever larger 
than that of causality. The general formula : 
_^(CauseX,-^l.(E) (Effect), suffices for the causal 
theory, the words " cause " and " effect " being used 
in a very gene^ral sense as summarising the totality 
of everythingV which comes into consideration. 
Teleolng-y is expressed by the for mula M=_.f (A. S). 
2ri_which 1V1 indiff^tes Medium^aud A^ S, Anteced_ent_^ 
and Consfiquent. 

The functional sign indicates in both cases logical 
dependence or logicaTaffinity of meaning. 

Even if Cossmann does not solve the problem 
" Vitalism or Mechanism ? " he at least determines 
in a positive sense the vahdity of a profoundly 


significant vital teleology not explicable by mere 
chance. A very large part of his book is devoted to 
this purpose. 

Evgen AJbrecht, in his Vorfragen der Biologie 
(1899), maintains that physics and physiology are 
but different points of view relating to the same 
reality. This seems to agree with the results of 
Cossmann's researches ; it does not go beyond my 
own statements in the Analytische Theorie (1894). 

Johannes Beinke has since 1899 devoted himself 
with great energy to the teleological problem, and 
has published a succession of books and articles ^ 
on the subject. His treatment is rather abstract 
and does not refer much to facts. He asserts that 
all specific movement is the result not only of 
energy, but also of those forces which Lotze called 
" second-hand." Reinke describes these forces by 
the general term " Dominants." By this term he 
evidently means not only the laws of mechanism, 
but also the so-caUed " constants." 

Latterly, Reinke has called these doubtful powers 
" system-forces," when considering the facts of 
physiology proper, and he is convmced of their 
mechanical nature. In this he is a static teleologist. 
He now reserves the name " Dominants " for the 
physiology of form and leaves their character 
doubtful, so that in this field, he is at most a pro- 
blematic Vitalist ; at times here too he even seems 
to incline to the mechanical theorj-. He certainly 

1 Die Welt als Tat, Berlin, 1899 ; " Gedanken ilber das Wesen 
der Organisation," Biol. Zentralblatt, 19, 1899 : Einleitimg in 
die theoretische Biologie, Berlin, 1901, etc. Reinke himself 
considers his article "Die Dominantenlehre '" {Natiir und Schule, 
2, 1902) as his best production. 


expressly rejects the theory of parallelism for the 
psycho-physical, and in this respect must be con- 
sidered a real Vitalist. 

This acutely elaborated theory of " Dominants," 
and the concentration of his researches on the 
problem of their nature, is Reinke's most valuable 
achievement. He does not refer, however, to my 
arguments on the autonomy of vital movement. 

It should be mentioned that Fritz Noll pre- 
pared the way for a line of enquiry ^ which we con- 
sider as full of significance for Vitalism. But as it 
principally concerns the analysis of particular facts, 
it cannot be analysed here in detail. 

Pauly ^ has lately been supporting a theory of 
life with a psychological basis. His vital principle 
works like a man who makes experience. I do 
not think that any such formula can fully express 
the dynamic-teleological phenomena of vegetative 
life. The views of Jennings, Holmes and S. Becher, 
and perhaps also Child are more or less similar to 
those of Pauly. Schneider's * Vitalism is more 
valuable for the conceptual and ontological sections 
than the doctrine which he expands. Semon's 
" Mneme " * is not vitalistic but expressly conceived 
in a mechanical sense. For him the word " memory" 
is only a short way of summing up a complex of 
mechanical factors not yet fully analysed. 

The remainder of the vitalistic utterances of the 

'^ Landwirtsch. Jahrbiicher, 1900; Biolog. ZentralblaU, 26, 1903. 
2 Darwinismus wnd Lamarckiamua, Munich, 1905. 
^ Cf . his article on "Vitahsni'' in Zeitschrifl fiir den Ausbau 
der Entwickelungslehre, vol. i. 1907. 
' Leipzig, 1904, second edition, 1910. 


immediate past do not throw any essential new light 
on the subject, but confirm, more or less, in a slightly 
altered form, the conclusions which we had already 
reached. If we wished this work to be quite com- 
plete, we should have to touch upon the publications 
of Auerbach, Bechterew, Bell, Dreyer, Fischel, 
France, Gemelli, Haldane, Hartog, Herbst, 0. 
Hertwig, Japp, Lodge, Mackenzie, Morgan, Mos- 
kowski, Neumeister, Ostwald,^ Schmitz-Dumont, 
Strecker and a few others ; and we should also have 
to examine the antagonistic arguments of BiitschU, 
Detto, Klebs, Julius Schultz and others. Even 
more important are the works of Gurwitsch on 
Determination, and his reflexions on heredity,^ 
while Bergson's fundamental theories should be 
studied in his own well-known writings, and especially 
in Creative Evolntion. 

If anyone should wish to obtain further informa- 
tion, he might read the articles ^ in which I defined 
my own position in relation to supporters and 
opponents of my doctrines of autonomy ; and he 
may also be referred to E. von Hartmann's essay on 
" Mechanism and Vitalism in Modern Biology," * 

' Ostwald's ' 'geistige Energie" appears to me far too problematical 
and not suiEciently analysed, to be brought forward in my text 
as a real advancement of Vitalism. For further information, 
cf. the essays mentioned in a later note. We shall, moreover, 
consider the relations of Vitalism and energy in the systematic 

' Biol CentraMaU, 32. 

'Biol. Centralblatt, 22, 1902; 23, 1903. Jensen's latest 
objections to Vitalism are very weak and by no means new. 

* Arch. f. syat. Philoa., 9, 1903. The essay by W. Bieganski : 
" Neo-Vitalismus in der modemen Biologic " {Annal. Naturphil., 
4, 1904, p. 47) may also be recommended, though with reserva- 


and to the final work of this great thinker, Das 
Problem des Lebens (1906). 

History must cease when the battles of the present 

And now, as one of the combatants, I propose to 
trace, without reference to history, the systematic 
development of the views which I myself consider 
as correct in the fundamental questions of biology. 



In the original German edition of this work (1906) 
the historical portion is followed by a short Zweiter 
Hauptteil, entitled Der Vitalismus als Lehre, in which 
a condensed account is given of what I call the 
proofs and indicia of the autonomy of life and of 
the relation of " entelechy " to the two principles 
of energetics as well as to the concept of substance. 
As all these topics are dealt with in my GifEord 
Lectures (1908) in a much broader, and, as I hope, 
better manner, and as a sort of summary of the 
Gifford Lectures is given in the first half of The 
Problem of IndividiuiUty (1914), containing a course 
of lectures delivered before the University of London, 
it seemed best to leave out the Zweiter Hauptteil 
in its original form, and to put something new in 
its place. 

The original Zweiter Hauptteil as well as the 
GifEord Lectures and the new little book just men- 
tioned, proceeds in what might be called the ascend- 
ing or inductive way. They aU begin with facts, 
analyse them, form theoretical concepts on the 
foundation of the analysis, compare these concepts 
with those which have been created in the sciences 
of the inorganic world, and — at least in the Gifford 


Lectures and the new book — finally try to formulate 
the real logic of Vitalism and to sketch the problem of 
" universal teleology." But it appears to me that 
the reverse of all this might be of interest for the 
reader ; a system of Vitalism namely that does not 
ascend from the facts to a theory, but descends from 
a theory, i.e. a logic of possibilities, to the fact, 
i.e. to realities. 

In my Ordnungslelwe, ein System des nicht meta- 
physischen Teiles der Philosophie mit besonderer 
Beriicksichtigung der Lehre vom Werden (1912), this 
method is already adopted, but with purely logical, 
or better, categorical, aims ; in what is to follow I 
shall try to develop what might be called " deductive 
Vitalism," with special reference to the claims of 
theoretical biology. Thus, deductive Vitalism as a 
real union of logic and biology, or rather as a sort 
of filling out of certain departments of logic with 
biological facts, will be developed here for the first 


Hbidelbekq, March, 1914. 


Pure logic, as the general theory of order deals 
with everything that is in the most general sense 
of being. Being here means nothing but being had 
by myself consciously in the form of a this. We shall 
apply the word object — (Meinong's " Gegenstand ") 
— ^in this most general sense. Everything then that 
may be " consciously had," is object — a sensation 
or a feeling or a reproduction of a sensation or a 
thought of whatever kind : and the totality of 
objects in this sense is to be ordered. 

Pure Logic starts with the irreducible concepts of 
order : this, such, and relation. Among relations 
are identity, difference (" otherness ") and con- 
sequence {i.e. a position is because there is another 

Whatever is an object is such, and its suchness 
must be defined. Now definition not only analyses 
the object, but, strange to say, also destroys it. For 
the object is not the mere sum of its attributes : it 
is their unity — it is all the attributes together. 

Thus, the concept of wholeness is already found 
I in pure logic. 


The objects of pure logic as the general theory of 
order may be called immediate objects ; they are, 
in fact, the immediate contents of consciousness. 

Now there are some immediate objects which mean 
or signify mediate objects or, as we generally say, 
objects of nature. The objects of nature " are " 
as if they had an independent being for themselves. 
" This dog," for instance, is a mediate object or an 
object of nature ; that is to say, whenever I think 
" this dog " in any form whatever, I mean by my 
thought, as an immediate object, a certain mediate or 
natural object in its quasi-independent singleness. 
In a similar way all so-called objects of nature are 
" meant." 

But when does an immediate object (a thought 
or a sense-image, etc.) mean or signify an object 
of nature, and when does it not 1 For practical 
purposes I almost aJways know when I have to 
refer an immediate object, a " givenness "so to say, 
to this strange quasi-independent realm which I call 
nature, but logic demands a better criterion and is 
not satisfied by the mere statement that " dreams," 
" real sensations," and " memory-images " are 
distinguished one from another quasi-instinctively. 

In order to discover the criterion which we are 
seeking we must first consider a very strange feature 
of conscious life. 


At one moment I " have " this consciously, at 
another I have that, and then again I have something 
else, and so on. This is the so-called stream of 
consciousness. But there is nothing like a stream 
quite immediately given to me : on the contrary, 
my having consciously is always a " now," or better 
still, it is entirely unrelated to time. I have this 
immediate object, this content, now^-that is all. 
But among the contents which I have consciously 
there can be distinguished a very peculiar class of 
what may be called signs ; and these signs, which 
are had in a now, mean " not now but then {i.e. 
earlier) ", and they may even mean " earlier than." 

Thus it is as if I were always identical in 
one respect, and yet at the same time not always 
identical in another. I am always identical as one 
who is a consciously having person in general, but 
I am not always identical as one who has special 
contents. This I formulate as follows : as having 

1 B. Russell (Princ. of Math., i.. Part vii., in particular p. 471 ; 
cf . my Ordnungslehre, p 174, note 1) and his followers believe they 
can do without such concepts as becoming and change. This 
may be true for mere " motion " of a physical point, though even 
here the introduction of a particular function in the place of 
motion as a something sui genesis does not afiord a real 
understanding. But such a mathematical reduction of becoming 
(if I may say so) is quite impossible in the realms of biology, 
history, etc. (cf. Ordnungslehre, p. 210, note) ; and it neglects 
the truly original meaning of becoming, i.e. its meaning with 
respect to the ego. 


consciously in general I am enduring, as having 
special contents I am becoming. 

Here we meet for the first time the ciirious concept 
of becoming ; and this is at the very root of 
" categories " substance and causality, as will be 
shown at a later stage. 

The next step is this : I look from my having at 
what I have ; this, i.e. the totality of immediate 
, objects I caU It, and then I say It becomes. In this 
way a certain connexion between the different 
I contents of my consciousness at different " nows " 
is established. But not very much would be gained 
in this way if, firstly, the enduring part of the It 
could not be shown, and if, secondly, something more 
could not be said with regard to becoming. 

In the concept of enduring in general, identity has, 

so to speak, been thrown outwards ; enduring is 

identity, but it means something that is always the 

same in time, not merely as a concept : it is identity 

petrified. But suppose the concept of consequence 

could also be made more than a concept of pure 

logic and could also be " thrown outwards " upon 

the It. What, if becoming could be formulated as 

, if an earlier phase of it were always the reason of 

1 a later phase, and a later phase the consequence of 

j an earlier one ? If this were possible then we might 

1 claim to understand becoming, to have rationalised it. 

Now it is certainly quite impossible to fulfil the 

logical demands mentioned here with regard to the 

becoming of immediate objects as they are given 

to me. Think of what you " have " consciously 

during a period of, say, five minutes : there is an 

enormous variety of contents of immediate objects, 


but there is neither any clearly enduring It, nor any 
sort of quasi-rational connexion in becoming itself. 

Must we therefore deny the possibility of a logical 
theory of becoming ? By no means. 

It is quite true that the totality of what I con- 
sciously " have " as immediate objects cannot be 
forced into the scheme of the theory of becoming 
with its postulates of something that endures and 
of rational connexion. But there is a certain 
something which I mean by part of that which I 
have as mediate : and this something, as we know, 
is called nature or natural reality, and nature fuUy 
obeys the postulates of the theory of becoming. In 
nature we may successfully search for something 
that endures, and in nature we may regard becoming 
as if any phase of it were the " reason " of a later 
phase and the " consequence " of an earlier one. We 
may even go so far as to say : Nature is the one 
mediate object that obeys the postulates of the 
rational theory of becoming. In other words : 
whether any immediate object that I consciously 
have (an optical or other image, a thought, etc.) is 
to be related to a mediate object in nature or not — | 
is decided according to the harmony or disharmony 
of becoming in which this mediate object would 
stand to those mediate natural objects which have; 
already been theoretically established. By this' 
argument and by this argument alone is " natural 
reality " distinguished from the world of dreams and 
from the world of imagination. i 

Nature, then, is the proper field of a theory of^ 
becoming. What endures in nature may be called' 
substance, the rational connexion among the changes 



Jin nature may be called causality. Both concepts, 
substance as well as causality, have been formed by 
a special sort of transformation of meaning out of 
the purely logical concepts identity and consequence 
— {this and because). Thus pure logic, the pure 
" theory of order " remains always the real founda- 
tion of all philosophy of nature : or, in other words, 
the " categories " rest upon purelj^ logical concepts. 


The concept of becoming, then, rests upon certain 
signifying contents which are immediately " had " : 
the concepts of substance and causality, on the other 
hand, are founded upon certain logical concepts 
applied to becoming in the manner of postulates : 
the concept of nature in its exact sense rests upon all 

The question now arises whether we are not in 
a position to say something more about natural 
becoming a priori, i.e. starting merely from what 
the concepts of becoming, substance, causality, 
and nature mean. And we are indeed able to do 
so — at any rate if we consider a certain feature 
always connected with our having an immediate 
object that " means " something in nature. We 
may describe this feature as of an empirical character 
taken for itself — just as the " sign " that means 
then or hefore is of an empirical character — but 
even then the following reasoning may be called 
a priori since it only deals with possibilities, and does 
not go into any details of real experience. 

The special feature common to aU our immediate 
data that are related to nature is this : they all have 
the sign of spatiality, they all mean not only a now 


but also a here. In fact, what we caU iatt-.'iiftQSt. 
ledge " of nature rests ultimately and exclusively 
"■" All""6ur knowledge about nature out of which 
we form our experience about nature as a something 
that is becoming or changing, must therefore also rest 
ultimately upon data of the form now-here-such, 
and upon nothing else. The importance of this is 
obvious, for it means that all immediate experience 
of nature is spatial experience — and this apphes, 
of course, with regard to change or becoming as well. 

That is to say : Whatever the theory of natural 
becoming may ultimately lead to, it always has to 
start from " a becoming in space," i.e. from two 
spatial states between which we may say that there 
is becoming. This " becoming " is to be rationalised. 
It is to be regarded as if it were the consequence of 
any " other " becoming earlier in time. That is 
all that the rational theory of becoming postulates. 
It does not postulate that the " other," earlier, 
becoming, which is to be the cause of the immediately 
given becoming, shall be also becoming in space, 
or, in short, spatial becoming. It may indeed be 
so, but that is not necessary : and this point, too, 
is of very great importance. 

But before we can realise its importance we must 
return once more to the fundamentals of our rational 
theory of becoming, i.e. to pure logic as the theory 
of order in general. 

Whenever there is something — in the sense of 
being an object, a " position " ^ — because there is 
something else, that which forms the reason must 
' See page 189. 


always be richer in content, i.e. richer in attributes 
than the other which is its consequence. We may 
speak of the degree of manifoldness of a concept, 
meaning thereby the number of different irreducible 
(elementary) characters which enter into its complete 
definition — these characters being suchnesses and 
relations. The reason, then, is always of a higher 
degree of manifoldness than the consequence. The 
being of the concept " dog " is the reason of the 
being of the concept " animal " : " justice " is the 
reason of " virtue " : " engine " of " manufactured 
object," etc.^ Now in our theory of becoming one 
becoming is to be regarded as if it were the con- 
sequence of an earlier one. The one becoming we 
start from is, as we know, bordered by two spatial 
states : each of these states may be signified by a 
concept giving account of the different irreducible 
" things " of the state, and of the relations between 
the things. We may say, shortly, that each of the 
two states which border on one immediately ex- 
perienced becoming has itself its proper degree of 
manifoldness. What, then, we must postulate, if 
our theory of becoming is really to provide us with 
an analogy to the logical relation of consequence, 
is the following : The degree of manifoldness of a 
natural system can never increase of itself, i.e. without 
a cause as its quasi-sufficient reason. To allow this 
would be to abandon the rational theory of becoming. 

' We take the concept of reason in its most fundamental sense, 
and relate it to concepts not to proper " judgments " (see my 
Ordnungslehre, pp. 53-66). With regard to the peculiarities of 
arithmetical and geometrical concepts see Ordnungslehre, pp. 58, 
120 f., 140 f. ; but this topic, thought very important for the 
problem of Systematics, may be left out of account here. 


This, then, is the foundation of aU further reason- 
ing about causality — taken together with the fact 
that one spatial becoming always forms the im- 
mediate datum of all reflexion : whenever there is 
an increase of the degree of manifoldness in the one 
spatial becoming that is to be rationalised, there 
must be a quasi-reason, i.e. a cause, for this increase 
that is outside the system itself. 

And now we are in a position to develop the a priori 
theory of the different types or forms of becoming. 

First type : Given a natural system that shows 
different stages at the times t^ and ^3 between which 
there was becoming transforming state B into 
state C. If now B and C, though different in their 
particular features, are of the same degree of mani- 
foldness ; and if a third state A of the system earlier 
than B may be discovered which is also of the same 
degree of manifoldness ; then every singularity of 
becoming between the states B and C may be causally 
related to a singularity of becoming between A and 
B. The problem of rationalising the becoming 
between the times t.2 and t^ has been solved. 

This problem can also be regarded as solved if, 
though the state A in the system itself is wanting, 
so that there is a real increase of manifoldness with 
regard to the system as such, yet there is spatial 
becoming " outside " the system (in the spatial 
sense of the word) : and from this the increase of 
the system may be understood. In this case also 
every singularity of the immediately experienced 
becoming may be connected with a singularity of 
earlier spatial becoming. 

We propose to call this type of becoming or rather 


this type of causality, singular or additive causality. 
The manif oldness of the system is here a mere sum : 
its different parts are changed in themselves, irre- 
spective of the others. This is the type of becoming 
that is illustrated by the sciences of the inorganic 
world. At present at any rate all so-called inorganic 
processes may be understood according to this 
scheme. And general principles — ^those of mechanics 
and energetics— have been formulated to give 
special expression to the various important aspects 
of rational becoming in the case of singular causality. 

Second and third types : These types of becoming 
are of great importance for the general theory of 
natural order, being the expression of certaia a 
priori possibilities. But they are not realised in 
nature as far as we know, and need, therefore, only 
be mentioned shortly here. 

In view of what becoming means and of the fact 
that immediately experienced becoming is always 
spatial becoming, it is quite conceivable that between 
the times t, and t.^ the number of elementary material 
constituents (" atoms ") of a system might increase 
without there having been a passage of atoms into 
the system from " outside " in the spatial sense. 
In order, then, to save the principle of rationality 
in becoming, thing-creating agents must be accepted 
which have " made " these atoms. 

And it is further conceivable that a system, hitherto 
changeless, may begin to change at the moment t 
without there being a moving cause anywhere in 
space. Change-creating agents must have been at 
work in such a case. 

As has been said, nature seems not to have 


realised these two possible types of becoming. 
Certain psychologists who do not accept the theory 
of " psycho-physical paraUeUsm," have, it is true, 
burdened the " soul " with the creation of material 
energy, but the relation between " body " and 
" sold " can, we think, also be conceived on the 
basis of our fourth type of becoming. 

Fourth type : Let there be a system of a given 
number of things and a given number of different 
relations among the things. Then between the 
moments ig ^Jid h there may be becoming which 
changes the state of the system in such a way that 
the number of different kinds of relations among the 
things increases without there being any kind of 
spatial agency that can be made responsible for 
this increase. In this case " immaterial " or non- 
spatial agents must have been at work if the ration- 
ality of becoming is to be saved at all. These agents 
need not have been of the " creating " sort — ^it is 
assumed that we know they are not. In other 
words, there has been a suflBlcient reason in space for 
" becoming " in general, i.e. there has been a supply 
of spatial energy for what has happened ; but it is 
with regard to the 'peculiarities of becoming that 
there is a lack of sufficient reason in spatial change. 
There must have been non-spatial agents of a 
controlling type, so to speak. 

The most important form of this type of becoming 
would be that in which a distribution of the things 
in one system of the form of a mere sum would 
be transformed into a distribution that would be 
in some sense a unity or totality, without any spatial 
mechanical predetermination of this totality. 


To put it very simply but clearly : an arrangement 
of things (atoms) of this form : 

FlOUBE 1. 

i.e. an arrangement that may be defined by very 
few terms, because it is of a very low degree of 
manifoldness, may be transformed into an arrange- 
ment such as this : 


P'ifiURE 2. 

without spatial preformation. There are sixteen 
" things " in each case, but the first arrangements of 
these things is clearly a sum, whereas the second 
resembles in form — a " fish." 

We shall call this type of becoming unifying or 
individualising causality. 

If a system passes through several phases of 
becoming in succession, all controlled by unifying^ 
causality, we may speak of the evolution of the 
system : and every singularity of becoming that 
leads to the unity as the final end may be called 
purposive or teleological. But the concepts of unity 
and of unifying causality are the more fiuxdamental. 

It wOl be shown that unifying causality is the 
prototype of biological, i.e. vitalistic becoming. 


We now enter the realm of Vitalism proper, i.e. the 
theory of the autonomy of the processes of life. 
And first of aU we must study a little more intimately 
the manner in which individualising causality 
(established above as a logical possibility) may act 
in the material universe, or rather with regard to a 
given finite material system. 

There is no creation either of matter or of the 
prerequisites of change as such if pure individualising 
causality is at work : there is only regulative or 
controlling action in addition to energetical becoming 
— as a special aspect of singular causality. What 
does this mean ? 

It means, firstly, that the so-caUed first priaciple 
of " Energetics " — the principle of the conservation 
of energy — is not violated by our individualising 
agent. This is postulated by the theory, and — 
we may say this already here — ^the experiments of 
Rubner, Atwater and others have shown that it 
holds empirically. The principle of the conservation 
of energy holds good for the organism. 

But what about the second principle of Energetics, 
the " principle of becoming " (Satz des Geschehens) 


in the terminology of Helm and Ostwald ? This 
principle, which, like the first, is fundamentally 
a priori, states that all becoming is> space depends 
on the existence of differences of what is called the 
" mtensity " of energy, as, e.g. temperature. May 
this principle be saved also in spite of the action of 
individualising causality ? I think it may, if only 
we suppose that the non-mechanical agent which is 
the bearer of individualising causality is able to 
suspend such happening as is possible on the basis 
of pre-existing differences of intensity and as would 
occur without the suspension. Suspending possible 
change and relaxing suspension would then be the 
two modes of " action " of the bearer of individualis- 
ing causality which we shall henceforth speak of as 
entelechy. The name, though well known in the 
metaphysical terminology of Aristotle, is not here 
used in the proper Aristotelian sense. ^ 

If in our figure 1 (p. 201) the points stand for 
sixteen systems equal one to another and each 
endowed with endless "possibilities" (in the form 
of given differences of energetic intensities), we 
can understand how this homogeneous distribution 
of possibilities may be transformed into a hetero- 
geneous distribution of realities, figure 2. In order 
that this may happen it is only necessary that 
entelechy, which is supposed to have suspended all 
possibilities so far, relaxes its suspension for each 
system in a different way. 

By our theory, that the action of entelechy con- 
sists in the suspension of given possibilities, we 
avoid a very serious fault of almost all forms of 
1 See p. 14. 


ancient Vitalism (and of many forms of modern 
Vitalism too). It has often been urged against 
Vitalism that according to its doctrines the organism 
should be omnipotent, whereas in fact, there are 
limits to all regeneration, adaptation, etc. On the 
basis of our theory, these " limits of regulabUity," 
to express ourselves briefly, may readily be under- 
stood : it is on given, preformed, material conditions 
that the action of entelechy depends. 

It may be weU to explain here in detail that 
entelechy — or any other individualising agent, if 
such there be — ^is itself neither " an energy " nor 
" a material substance " of any special kind : such 
an assumption would lead to absurdities.^ Entelechy 
is an agent sui generis, non-material and non-spatial, 
but acting " into " space, so to speak ; an agent, 
however, that belongs to nature in the purely logical 
sense in which we use this word. 

Another theory with regard to the possible rela- 
tions among material and non- material agents of 
reality was developed by Descartes and later by 
Eduard von Hartmann, the last great metaphysician 
before Bergson. Both authors defend the view that 
the non- mechanical agent — ^the " soul " — may alter 
the direction of material particles, and by this action 
also alter the directions of all forces which go out 
from them. It is clear that this hypothesis starts 
from a purely mechanical, as opposed to the more 
energetical point of view. The theory is possible : 
and the principle of the conservation of energy in its 
most general form — (S(E) = Const.), though not for 
the three axes of space separateljr — would also be 
1 See Gifioid Lectures, ii. pp. 167 ff., 249 H. 


preserved. But the fact that there are " limits of 
regulability " woTild not be well accounted for by 
such an assumption. My own hypothesis, on the 
purely mechanical ground, is therefore as follows : 
Wherever individualising causality is at work we 
have systems embracing potential and kinetic 
mechanical energy ; both kinds of mechanical 
energy are " in suspension " ; with regard to both 
suspension may cease. Thus everything turns out 
as in the energetic formulation.^ 

A few general remarks may conclude this section. 

If we say that entelechy, whenever it ceases to 
suspend preformed material becoming, allows a 
" possible " happening to become " real," we do 
not mean to imply that any obstacle to becoming, 
in the mechanical sense, is removed by entelechy ; 
for such a removal in the mechanical sense, such an 
Auslosung, would require energy, and entelechy is 
per definitionem non-energetic. Entelechy only 
allows that to become real which it has itself held 
in a state of mere possibility — not what has been in 
this state simply as a result of physico-chemical 

It is useless to speak about the origin of ente- 
lechial suspension in nature ; useless, i.e. to discuss 
the origin of life. It is absolutely impossible for 
us to say anything definite on this subject. Similarly 
it is useless to discuss the meaning of death. At the 
end of this book a few words will be said about the 
individuality or totality of the universe in general — 
(about what is also called the problem of " universal 
teleology "), and these problems will then be briefly 
1 See Gifiord Lectures, ii. pp. 218-225 


mentioned, but there, too, only in a formal and 
logical sense. 

The foregoing has been written with reference to 
a special problem of actual science, i.e. the problem 
of the individual biological organism ; but it must 
be borne in mind that it holds good for any kind of 
unifying or individualising causality, and that it 
was only for the purposes of the present exposition 
that it was based on the specific concept of entelechy. 


What we have tried to show so far is this : There 
is the irreducible concept of a whole with its farts ; 
there is the possibility of different forms of becoming, 
for there are more possible forms of causality_than 
only spatial^or singular,' XF.™physico;cherriical or 
mechamcaTcausality j^ it is possible to formulate 
an Idea "aHouF me relations between mechanical and 
non-mechanicaI~causalii^(the T^Feory of the_j^g]lS;_ 
pending " action of entelechy). 

'^'"We now proceed by showing that non-mechanical 
causality exists in rmture, at least in a certain limited 
field. This is a purely empirical problem. It might 
have turned out that the concept of unifying 
causality was a mere concept of logic, having no 
representative in nature as we have defined it. This 
would be the case, if it were possible to conceive 
aU natural becoming mechanically. The concept 
of wholeness or individuality might hold for nature 
or parts of nature in this case also, in so far as there 
were mediate objects in nature which were in- 
dubitably unities. But in the case of the possibility 
of a mechanical conception of nature, no becoming 
by which spatial wholeness is formed out of spatial 
non-wholeness would exist ; all wholeness would 


prove to be spatially preformed, just as wholeness 
is preformed in a machine. A theory which applied 
to nature the concept of wholeness but not the 
concept of unifying causality might, indeed, properly 
be called the machine-theory of nature, or, if life 
alone were considered, of life. The machine-theory 
would already be opposed to the conception of 
nature (or life) as a mere field of chance. 

Vitalism now tries to show that life is not only 
not a mere field of chance, but that its phenomena 
are not even covered by a machine-theory. 

All proofs of Vitalism, i.e. all reasonings by which 
it is shown that not even the machine-theory covers 
the field of biological phenomena, can only be 
indirect proofs : they can only make it clear that 
mechanical or singular causality is not suflScient for 
an explanation of what happens. Indirect proofs of 
this sort may be given on three different and inde- 
pendent lines. 

The first line of argument is this : 

Analytic experimental embryology — Entwick- 
lungsmechanik, as Roux has called it^— has been able 
tq^show that there are many kinds of embryonic 
organs or even animals which, if by an operation^ 
deprived of part of their cells, behave in the following 
way^: of whatever material you deprive these organs 
of animals, the remainder, unless it is very small, will 
always develop in the normal manner, though, so to 
speak, in miniature. That is to sdy : there will 
develop out of the part of the embryonic organ or 
animal left by the operation, as might be expected, 
not a part of the organisation hiit the whole, only on 
a smaller scale. I have proposed the name of 


harmonious-equipotential systems ioi organs or animals 

of this type ; they are " equipotential," because all 

Their elements (cells)" qufte evidently must possess 

the same morphogenetic " potency," otherwise the 

experimental result would be impossible ; and their 

.el^oents work " harmoniously " together in each 

single experimental case. It is only on the basis 

~oftTieif~equipotentiality and of their harmonious I 

""working that the experimental results can be what 

"they are. 

Among embryonic organs the cleavage stages and 
the so-called germ-layers, for instance, are har- 
monious-equipotential systems : take from the 
blastula of a sea-urchin whatever you like (but not 
more than three-quarters) and the rest will always 
develop into a very small but complete " Pluteus." 

Whole adult animals prove to be of the harmonious- 
equipotential type in many cases of restitution 
(regeneration), i.e. when they restore their form 
after violations. The branchial apparatus of the 
Ascidian Clavellina, for instance, is able to give rise 
to a complete little organism by a mere rearrange- 
ment of its material without the formation of new 
cells, and so in any part of this apparatus, cut it how 
you will. 

So much for the facts, which are very various and 

If now we turn to the theoretical analysis of the 
facts, it might seem at the first glance as if no 
further discussion were required : whenever an 
organism or part of an organism, adult or embryonic, 
is an harmonious-equipotential system, a homogeneous 
distribution of possibilities (i.e. cells which all have 


the same morphogenetic potencies) is transformed 
into a heterogeneous distribution of realities {i.e. 
specific parts of cells with specific physiological 
functions), and this is clearly the very scheme of 
what we have called unifying or individualising 
causality. Unifying, i.e. non-mechanical, causality 
then seems to be at work whenever a harmonious- 
equipotential system develops itself. 

But the problem is a little more difficult than it 
seems at first, though, it is true, our short reasoning 
meets the main point. 

Might there not be some sort of machine inside the 
harmonious system, on the basis of which all its 
evolutionary acts occur ? Weismann did regard 
embryology in this way, and his theory was legiti- 
mate so long as there were no experiments. Experi- 
ments now show that any part of the system, 
however large and wherever taken, may be cut away 
from it without disturbing proportionate develop- 
ment. This proves that a " machine " cannot be 
the basis of harmonious-equipotential differentiation : 
for a " machine," i.e. a specific arrangement of 
physico-chemical things and agents, does not remain 
itself, if you take from it whatever you please, and the 
organism, or, better, the non-developed harmonious 
system does remain " itself," with regard to its mor- 
phogenetic faculties, after any operation whatever. 

The harmonious system, then, is not a " machine " ; 
it is, in fact, as it seemed to be from the beginning, 
a something that is governed by Individualising 
Causality. " Entelechy," as a non-mechanical agent 
of nature, is at work in the harmonious-equipotential 


No other argument in favour of Vitalism meets so 
well the purely logical requirements of the theory 
of becoming as does the one that is based upon 
harmonious differentiation. But there are stUl two 
others, which as proofs of Vitalism, or, better, as 
disproofs of the machine theory of life, are of equal 

The first of them, which is at the same time the 
" second " independent proof of Vitalism, runs as 
follows : 

There is another kind of equipotential system than 
the harmonious-equipotential ; and the ovary is an 
instance of such a second type. The ovary is a 
complex-equipotential system. Whilst in the har- 
monious-equipotential system the whole is formed 
by the harmonious co-operation of all the single 
elements, in the complex-equipotential system each 
element for itself is capable of forming the totality ; 
equipotentiality consists here in the fact, that all 
elements are " equally " capable of so operating. 

Now all this proves nothing for or against Vitalism 
when taken for itself ; but it is different if we con- 
sider the genesis of an equipotential system of the 
complex type. The ovary, for instance, has come 
from one single cell in the course of embryology, i.e. 
from its " Anlage," to use the untranslatable German 
term which biology is adopting. This Anlage-cell 
has been divided and re-divided innumerable times ; 
the last products of this long process of divisions are 
the eggs. We now simply say : How_could a machine 
_{differentiaUy bunt up in the three dimensions of 
space as an embryological machine in any case 
should be) — how could a machine he divided innumer- 


able tim es and yet rema in what it was ? No machine, 
_therefQre-,-can-be-4he. test of embryolog^^. 

It appears, in short, that by this argument so- 
called inheritance is shown not to depend on mecha- 
nical factors exclusively, material conditions, as 
studied by Mendelism and in the experiments of 
Boveri and Herbst, are only means of inheritance, 
but are not its proper essential factor. 

WhUst the second argument in favour of a non- 
mechanical interpretation of life has a certain 
resemblance with the first one, the third proof of 
the autonomy of life, which we must now try to 
sketch shortly, foUows a direction of its own. 

What occurs in nature when a man acts ? What 
does acting mean considered as a natural pheno- 
menon apart from all introspective psychology ? To 
what general laws is the body of an acting man, 
considered as a natural body, subject ? 

Analysis shows that action of any kind whatever 
does always bear these two essential features or 
criteria. Firstly, it rests upon a basis of possibilities 
which has been created historically, i.e. in the course 
of the individual life of the acting person ; or 
shortly : it rests upon an historical basis of reaction. 
That is to say, every action is determined — though 
not exclusively — ^by everything that has occurred 
to the acting person until this very moment of his 
life. Had we not decided to put aside all psychology 
in our argument, we might say that " experience " 
based upon " memory " is one of the chief features 
of all acting. 

But — does not also the phonograph " act " upon 
an historical basis of reaction ? Certainly it does, 


and it is especially in order to distinguish the acting 
organism from machines of the type of the phono- 
graph that a second criterion of acting must be added 
to the first. The phonograph only gives ofE what 
it has received, in its very specificity ; in the organism 
the occurrences of individual life have only created 
a general stock of possibilities for further acting, but 
have not determined all further rcckctions quite in 
det^. What really happens in any case of a<;ting 
— always upon the historical basis in general — occurs 
according to a curious principle, which may be caUed . 
the criterion of individual corre-spondencz . That is 
to say : any re^l action is an individual "' answer '" 
to an individual stimulus — founded upon the his- 
torical basis. 

And this individual correspondence, occurring 
upon an historically created basis, cannot be under- 
stood as a ease of mechanical causality. For there 
is not a '' sum " on the side of the stimulus that 
corresponds to a " sum '' on the side of the reaction, 
and, further, not even the possibilities of acting are 
in any way " performed.'' 

From this point of view, the brain and the nervous 
system appear as nothing but as necessary- means 
for putting the '' acting " factor into connexion with 
material nature : but they are not themselves the 
acting factor. 

These, then, are sketches of the three proofs of 
Vitalism. Further proofs may be possible, and it is 
to be hoped that others may be able to find them ; 
but one proof, of course, is sufficient, if it is a real 
'■ proof.'' 

Besides what I regard as arguments proving the 


impossibility of a mechanical conception of life, 
there are several arguments which, though not proofs 
in the strict sense, may be called indicia of the 
autonomy of life. These indicia of Vitalism can 
only be shortly mentioned here, interesting as they 
are ; in my Gifford Lectures a full and thorough 
account of them may be found. 

There are, firstly, the various facts regarding 
complications in processes of restitution i.e. resti- 
tution of the second order or the " restitution of 
a restitution," and the phenomenon of " equifin- 
ality " ; or the fact that the same regulatory result 
may be reached on different morphogenetic lines. 
Then there are the innumerable facts of active 
adaptation — not of adaptedness as a mere state — 
on the grounds of morphology as well as of physi- 
ology, and among animals as well as among plants. 
The formation of what the theory oi immunity 
calls " antibodies " is the most remarkable case of 
them. And, finally, there are the phenomena of 
instinct and its regulations, which, unfortunately, 
are not even as mere facts sufficiently analysed at 
the present day. 

All these facts are either reducible to those under- 
lying the first of our proofs of Vitalism, or they show 
that the organism is of the type of an individual 
unity in nature ; but they do not prove unifying 
becoming. For to be of the type of a natural unity 
is not the same as for a thing to owe its origin to 
unifying becoming immediately, and it is with 
unifying becoming alone that Vitalism has to do. 
In the introduction to this book the difference 
between " static " and " dynamic " teleology has 


been urged. We have avoided in this sketch the 
concept of teleology almost completely, having put 
the concept of unity or individuality in its place and 
having spoken of unifying instead of teleological 
becoming. But it is clear without further discussion 
that, if we were to apply the teleological concepts, 
we might say that all " indicia " of Vitalism do not 
prove " dynamic " teleology, i.e. Vitalism, but 
only prove teleology in general, leaving the specifica- 
tion open, or " static," i.e. machine-like or preformed, 
teleology. Therefore all these " indicia," and among 
them even the strange facts of the formation of 
antibodies, are more important in as far as they 
state problems for future analytical research, than 
as solutions of any question. 

To sum up : the organism, as studied by the science 
■ of biology, affords an instance of unifying or indivi- 
dualising causality, i.e. of one of the elementary 
forms of causality, in so far as its morphogenetic 
or moving behaviour is concerned. Whenever there 
appears an harmonious-equipotential system in the 
course of its morphogenetic behaviour, the organism 
may even be said to be a quasi-verbal illustration 
of what unifying causality, as one of the types of 
possible non-mechanical forms of causality, means : 
a sum (of possibiUties of happening) is transformed 
into a unity (of real results of happening) without 
any spatial or material preformation of this unity. 


Vitalism, so far, has been considered as a purely- 
biological theory. Individual biological becoming 
is in fact an illustration of one of the elementary 
forms of becoming that are possibly a priori ; the 
words " in fact " are the main thing in this phrase ; 
it is by them that a progress from mere logic into the 
field of the philosophy of nature is made. 

Now the problem that first of aU arises is this : 
Are there other " systems " in natural reality, 
besides those which we call individual organisms, for 
which we are able to prove, or at least to suppose, 
that becoming with respect to them is also in fact 
an illustration of the one possible type of causality 
that we have called unifying or individualising 
causality ? And this is an empirical problem, just 
as was the problem of Vitahsm proper. 

It may as well be plainly stated at the outset that 
we do not know in any case, whether there be any 
further factual illustration of unifying cause, but 
we may suppose that there is some such illustration 
in various fields of reality. 

If we start from pure logic we might at the first 
glance suppose that there are very many cases, if 


not of unifying causality, at least of factual unity. 
Is not every concept a unity ? And might we not say, 
therefore, that, wherever we have any concept that 
"means" as its mediate object an object of nature, we 
also have conceived this object of nature as a unity ? 

Our problem is, however, more complicated ; for 
logical or conceptual unity does not warrant real 
unity in the least way. We may take out of reality 
anything, any " system " we want, and " mean " 
this by one single term. The term as a logical 
formation is then always a " unity," but it would 
cause nothing ; nay, it would disturb the concept of 
real unity to say that the " system " as a natural 
object is a unity also. To say so without a very 
detailed consideration would deprive the concept 
of real unity of that undoubted significance which 
it may have if considered and applied carefully. 

"River," "island," "mountain," "the state," 
" the organism," " England," " humanity," " a 
street," " a lion " are certainly aU unities as concepts, 
meaning certain natural (mediate) objects or classes 
of natural objects. But, as to real unity, we Jctwiv 
so far only that " the organism " and " a lion " are 
unities, buUt up by unifying becoming. With 
regard to all the other objects a special investigation 
is required. 

What sort of an investigation is this to be ? 

It would no doubt be best could we study in an 
analytical waj^ the " becoming " that has led to the 
natural objects mentioned, as we have studied 
analytically the becoming that has formed the 
individual organism. And, in fact, this is possible 
with respect to some of these objects. With respect 


to " river," " island," " mountain," " a street," we 
may say in fact, on the basis of our knowledge of 
what we caU geological and psychological becoming, 
that the concepts of river, island, mountain, a street, 
though unities as concepts, do not mean objects 
which are unities. For the geological becoming that 
has led to the presence of rivers, islands, and moun- 
tains, and the psychological or psycho-physical 
becoming that has led to the presence of streets seem 
clearly to be of the type of singular causality. In 
short : as objects aU these systems are sums and 
nothing else. Certainly, they all owe their existence 
to processes of complication ; but these complications 
are cumulations and not evolutions — if by "evolution" 
we mean a complication from within, based upon 
unifying becoming, and by " cumulation " a com- 
plication from without, based upon the mere circum- 
stance that one phase of singular becoming is 
superimposed, so to say, upon the other. And the 
latter is true for rivers, islands, mountains and 
streets — so at least we are allowed to say without 
quite a new kind of consideration not mentioned 
as yet ; so at least we may say on the basis of what is 
commonly called " science." 

But with regard to the objects signified by the 
words " the state," " England," " humanity," we 
know nothing as to their being the result of an 
evolution or a cumulation. Can we know anything, 
in this case, in the same way as we have a knowledge 
of the evolutionary character of the processes that 
lead to the individual organism ? 

Phylogeny, and history as the continuation of 
phylogeny, are the two great fields of reahty we have 


now to study ; the first of them is far more pro- 
blematic than the second, for with regard to so-called 
phylogeny we do not even know, in the absolute 
sense of the word, whether it has occurred at all, 
though we may regard it as highly probable. Are, 
then, phylogeny and history evolutions ? Is the 
present state of mankind the result of any kind of 
unifying causality ? Or, to put the question in 
the language of this book, are the various single 
processes of phylogeny and history dynamic-teleo- 
logical processes, if we call " dynamic-teleological " 
any singularity in the midst of a totality of processes 
controlled by individualising causality ? 

Let us be brief about phylogeny. We may, 
it is true, accept the theory of descent ; but Dar- 
winism and Lamarckism do not touch the main 
point of the problems ; they apply only to parts of 
it which are of secondary importance. We do not 
possess any real " theory " of phylogeny. May we, 
at least, suppose phylogeny to be a suprapersonal 
evolution ? We may, but only for very general and 
undetermined reasons ; along special lines there are 
complications which we are not able to understand 
from what we know in the other fields of biology. But 
we are not even in possession of a warranted "system " 
of biological species, of a real "rational system." 

With regard to history we can say a little more, 
because we ourselves stand in the midst of it — though 
even this " standing in the middle " has, on the 
other hand, a special and very strange dis- 
advantage with regard to real knowledge. For we 
may even go as far as to say that because we are 
standing in the middle of history as an evolution — 


granting that it be an evolution — we cannot and 
shall never be able to appreciate in clearness its 
evolutionary character. What could an em- 
bryonic cell, say of one of the germ layers, know 
about the " evolutionary unity " of which it is a 
part, if we could endow it with the faculties of 
sensation and reasoning ? It would at the highest 
" suppose " in a " hypothetical " manner that such 
a unity exists. And we are in the place of the 
reasoning embryonic cell with regard to supraper- 
sonal unity. 

And yet there are some peculiar features in 
" history " or, rather, in the human community, 
that seem to give us some signs of supra-individual 
totality. The first of these signs is the general 
biological fact of propagation. The second is what 
Wundt has called the " heterogeny of purposes," 
i.e. the fact that human action may have quite 
diiferent effects from what the agent expected — so 
to speak in a creative manner. The third sign of 
suprapersonality is morality or, rather, the fact of 
moral feeling in the ■\\-idest sense of the word. 

We say here only a few words with regard to 
morality as a sign of suprapersonal unity. By this 
it is meant that the fact of moral feeling or, in short, 
conscience, is to be understood, and can only be 
understood, by the hypothesis that the single human 
person plays a particular role in the midst of a real 
evolution of mankind, and that his conscience shows 
him, indirectly, what role he plays. Thus, morality 
lends support to the hypothesis that mankiud is 
a suprapersonal unity in evolution, an hypothesis 
which is by no means constructed ad hoc, i.e. simply 


to " explain " the existence of morality, but owes 
its origin to logical considerations. It is, of course, 
necessary to assume, in order that the hypothesis of 
mankind being a suprapersonal unity may really 
" explain " morality, that the content of the moral 
feeling in each person — with its two sides of pity and 
duty — ^is in fact in accordance with the general goal 
of human evolution, and does not mean what it 
does though the goal of evolution might possibly 
be considered as " immoral." But this additional 
hypothesis is by no means artificial, though, of 
course, it is an hypothesis. 

By our conception of morality as a sign of supra- 
personal evolutionary unity, " Ethics " becomes a 
part of " Logic," at least of the Logic of nature ; and 
this is very important with regard to the system of 

Returning, then, to the problem of suprapersonal 
unity in general, with special regard to the problem 
of history, it must be confessed that, apart from the 
" signs " of unity spoken of, we are not able to say 
anything more in detail about the evolutionary 
character of history. What in the first place seems 
to support the conception of history as an evolution 
— ^the fact, namely, that everything has become so 
complex and the so-called " progress " in art, 
knowledge, mamifacturing and general " civilisa- 
tion " — all this may also mean nothing but what we 
have called cumulation, and not evolution. In 
other words, it may be that aU these comphcations 
rest only upon the faculty of the individual soul 
to store, so to say, all its own experiences and 
those of former generations. Even with respect to 


moral " progress," it may behave like this ; the 
abandoning of slavery and torture may not rest upon 
a real evolutionary process, and we therefore cannot 
know with certainty that both these institutions 
will never be introduced again. 

There certainly are cumulations in history, even 
if we grant that a main line of real evolution runs 
through it. And a sort of mixture of cumulation 
and evolution wUl then be discernible in any 
historically created system. If we call " the State " 
the real evolutionary suprapersonal order of man- 
kind, we may not expect the political " states " of 
our times to be pure suprapersonal imities for them- 
selves. They are each only part of the one supra- 
personal unity, mixed up with cumulative con- 
tingencies — if by contingency we understand what 
does not belong to a special unity already recognised. 
The mediaeval idea of one hierarchic state came 
much nearer to the logical ideal of the one state as 
the suprapersonal order of mankind than our modern 
national states do. 

Evolution and cumulation are certainly mixed in 
history, if we grant to it its hypothetic evolutionary 
character at all. And so it wUl probably be m 
phylogeny also ; perhaps we may say here that the 
theories of Lamarck and Darwin account for the 
" cumulations " in phylogeny, whilst we are not yet 
— and perhaps never shall be — in possession of a 
theory that reaUy tells us what sort of an " evolu- 
tion " phylogeny is. 

The contrast between evolution and cumulation, 
between contingency and unity in general now leads 
us to further problems. 


In a previous paragraph of this article the concepts 
of logic and of nature have been defined. Logic is 
the theory of order in the widest sense of the word, 
the concept of " order " being the indefinable basis 
of aU thinking. Nature is the totality of certain 
" mediate objects," meant by immediate objects or 
thought-contents, which behave as if they were 
something for themselves. If now we bring the two 
concepts of order and of nature together the following 
postulate is at once before us. 

Nature is to be conceived as the one order of natural 
objects ; only if conceived in this way, can nature 
be said to be " understood " ; for to understand is 
to conceive as an order. 

This, then, is the postulate of logic, or its " ideal." 

Let us first try to see what this postulate means in 

Strange to say, it destroys the difference between 
" mechanism " and " Vitalism," or between singular 
and unifying causality, which we have established 
so carefully. For it abolishes mechanism. There is 
no " singularity " any more in the face of the 
general postulate of the one natural order ; the 
universe is an organism, or rather is the one organism. 


And the postulate of order destroys something 
more, something that appears to be of the greatest 
importance to science : it destroys the concept 
of the law of nature. AH so-called " laws," i.e. all 
connexions of natural principles with regard to being 
or becoming which are realised in so many " cases," 
appear, at any rate, as nothing but features of the 
behaviour of that agent which orders " the nature," 
as features of the behaviour of the natura naturans. 
And these features have no guarantee in themselves 
of being immutable ; on the contrary, they must 
be mutable, as certainly as nature is a something 
in evolution. All natural becoming is like one great 
embryology ; but in biological embryology we know 
that the " law " of mere cleavage, for instance, 
holds good for, say, ten ceU-divisions and is then 
followed by the " law " of organ-formation. 

Every singularity of being and becoming has its 
own particular place in the order of nature — so 
runs our postulate in another form. 

We may call our postulate the postulate of monism 
of order. All philosophers who have tried to work 
a " theodicy " have seen this monism of order, 
Plotinus, for instance, and Leibniz ; and all theo- 
logians who have written on " providence " have 
also seen it. 

It seems at the first glance as if the abolition of 
the conception of " law " by means of our monistic 
postulate entails a great disadvantage to science — 
but only so long as we do not appreciate that some- 
thing else also is to be abolished by monism, a 
something that may be said to be the greatest 
enemy of thought : clmnce or contingency. 


There is no contingency where there is mere order. 

But now the great question arises : is the logical 
postulate of order or monism really to be fulfilled by 
what we know about nature empirically ? Can we" 
really say that we know that every singularity of 
nature has its single place in one great ordered 
totality ; that, as far as becoming is concerned, every 
single event is purposive or teleological with regard 
to a certain final state which we conceive as the 
ordered state 1 Or must we confess in spite of all 
logic and all logical postulates that we do n^t know 
that nature is one order, in which every singularity 
of being or of becoming has its one peculiar place 1 

This problem — the problem of monisrn, or dualism 
\¥ith regard to factual natural order — is not to be 
solved in a final way. For, in spite of all the de- 
ficiencies of our positive knowledge with regard to 
order, monism may always reason in the following 
way : 

Certainly, what ive knoiv and are even able to know 
about nature does not form one order if taken 
together ; there is chance, contingency, non-teleo- 
logy in what we know. But this is our fault and 
not the fault of nature. For we have imagined we 
had the whole of nature where we had only part ; 
and only that part which is such as to he accessible 
to our form of apprehending reality. We can only 
receive the one part of reality which appears to us 
under the signs of spatialitJ^ But only what we 
call inorganic becoming is completely accessible to 
us in the form of spatial signs ; even individual 
organic becoming, as studied in biology, is marked 
to us only by some spatial results but not as becom- 


ing ; for it is not spatial, i.e. in space, as becoming. 
And who can say how many kinds of being or 
becoming there may be in reality which are absolutely 
inaccessible to us, because they are not marked 
by spatial signs at all ? And might it not be that 
nature would appear to us as the one order we are 
in search for, if only we knew all those parts of it 
which, by our mental organisation, we are absolutely 
incapable of knowing ? 

Such reasoning is the ultimate ratio of a monism 
of order. It explains our insufficiency in conceiving 
monism by metaphysical possibilities, i.e. by the 
hypothesis that there may be innumerable fields 
of reality not marked to us by spatial signs ; it, 
certainly, is quite uncontrollable. But it expresses 
a possibility, and thus monism is not to be defeated 
in an absolute manner. 

Whoever lays stress upon what is empirically 
known must accept the dualism of order and chance, 
of unity and sum — of elSo? and vXt] in the last 

In order to know where there are groups of natural 
facts which we are naturally unable to conceive as 
parts of a unity, let us first return to embryology 
once more. We know that embryological becoming 
is " vitalistic," that it is impossible to comprehend 
it by the laws of physics and chemistry. But does 
this statement apply to each singleness in the course 
of embryology ? Certainly it does not : the position 
of the single cells in the different organs of the 
embryo or the adult is, probably in almost all cases, 
contingent ; and is different in each individual of the 
same species. Unity and unifying causality apply 


only to the arrangement of organs in general and to 
the general features of form — say, of the single bones 
of vertebrates — ^but not to any intimate details. 

If we leave aside that large field of our ignorance, 
phylogeny, and turn at once to history, we meet 
contingency in another form. From another point 
of view, as we have said before, there certainly are 
cumulations and probably lines of evolution in 
history. When we said this we had not yet formu- 
lated the logical postulate of monism of order, we 
rather looked upon the " signs " of unity in history 
as something very valuable though rare. That was 
the method of naive empiricism. But now we start 
from the postulate of monism of order and— do not 
find it fulfilled : and it is now not merely cumulation 
with regard to which we say that we are disappointed 
as logicians — ^it is chance, it is contingency in its 
crude and immediate reality, and, further, it is stUl 
something else. We have tried to conceive ethics 
as a part of the logic of reality, i.e. to conceive moral 
feelings as a sign of the single man's belonging to a 
suprapersonal unity in evolution. Why, then, we 
may now ask, are men not always " good " but 
very often " bad " ; why is there the evil, the sin ? 
EvU and sin seem to be non-evolutionary contin- 
gencies of the highest order. But in pure biology 
we have their counterpart in illness and even death. 

In any case we know there are historical con- 
tingencies — at least for our human knowledge, or, 
better, as far as we believe that we have complete 
nature in spatial nature. It must be granted that, 
even apart from this argument our knowledge of 
the main points in history is very imperfect, that 


there may be " signs of unity " in it that might be 
accessible to us, were we but carefully to study the 
problem — Hegel's concept of the " List der Ver- 
nunft " is probably a suggestion that one day may 
lead further. But, even then, in the one case 
a shot reaches its mark and in another not, the 
marks both times being historical persons, and this 
appears to us to be contingent and nothing else ; 
so long, at least, as our knowing ranks higher to us 
than our postulating. 

This is the right place to say a few words on the 
methodology of history, and of all science of " cul- 
ture," from the purely logical point of view. The 
problem has been very much discussed in recent 
years, particularly in Germany, but the main point, 
it seems to me, has generally been slurred over. 
On the one hand, as first in the work of Windelband, 
an endeavour is made to formulate what the actual 
method of the writers of history is at the present 
day ; the historian too, it is said, selects and orders 
his material in relation to " values," i.e. centres of 
interest. This is certainly done, but cannot be said 
to be " science " ; were it the last word of history, 
history would be a collection of curiosities, and 
would, at the best, be of moral or ethical value alone. 
But, on the other hand, we are told, and in par- 
ticular by Buckle, Taine, Lamprecht and others, that 
history must try to find historical " laws." There 
is no doubt that this is a real theme for the historian, 
but, it seems to me, it is his theme more in his 
capacity as a sort of psychologist than as a real 
" historian." For these historical " laws " — quite 
apart from their being mere regulae. of a cumulative 


character, and not elementan* laws — do not touch 
historj' as one single evolutionary process ; they also 
deprive history of its proper aspect of becoming. 
This, then, seems to me to be the real goal of the 
history of the future : to try to find signs of evolution 
in history, signs of an evolution proper to it and to 
nothing else ; in this way history would have its 
place in the midst of the general theory of order 
and would yet be a science for itself. Herder and 
Hegel conceived history in this way. though not in 
a manner quite satisfactory, and in our days Breysig 
seems to foUow them. 

We now return to the question — monism or 
dualism — to attack the very centre of the problem. 

Monism of order is a postulate of logic ; the whole 
universe should be conceived as one order. To do 
this is impossible on the grounds of biology proper 
and of liistory, because in both ca?es there is unity 
mixed ^Wth chance and contingency. What now 
is to be said about our knowledge of unity, of the one 
order with regard to so-called inorganic nature ? 

It seems at first as if the gap between ideal and 
reahty is greater here than anjTvhere else ; for 
empirical science, so far, has not even raised the 
question of unity, as it has done in biology and 
history, but has surrendered the whole material to 
the scheme of singular causality without hesitation. 
So, at least, it has been during the last decades of 
the history of science. 3Iust matters remain thus ? 
Anyone who knows a little of the scientific literature 
of the eighteenth century would hardly be inclined 
to answer this question in the affirmative. For very 
much was -uTitten in former days on the " general 


teleology," the " mutual harmony " of what we call 
to-day, rather carelessly, " inorganic " nature. 

But perhaps all books about " general " and 
" mutual " teleology or unity have been written in 
a decidedly uncritical way ? Granted that they are 
— is it not rather remarkable that a professor of 
biological chemistry is working in quite the same 
spirit at the present time ? 

Professor Henderson of Harvard has recently 
published a very remarkable book entitled The 
Fitness of the Environment. I do not agree with 
Henderson's attitude towards the problem of 
Vitalism ; he advocates what we should call the 
machine-theory, i.e. a static teleological conception 
of life, which does not seem to meet the point. But 
this is quite immaterial if compared with his positive 
work : he has not only once more realised the 
problem of inorganic or, better, universal teleology, 
as I may also claim to have done at the end of my 
Gifford Lectures, hut he has found the way to deal 
with this problem in detail, and this on the firm ground 
of fhysics, chemistry and physical chemistry. Water, 
carbonic acid, and " the ocean " are the chief objects 
of his study ; and the result of his researches is 
that all phenomena of life are quite essentially 
based upon the exceptional character of all the so- 
called constants of HgO and CO2, if compared with the 
constants of all other compounds. The well-known 
and often discussed fact that water has its greatest 
density at -f 4° C. and not at freezing point is but 
one out of very numerous topics of his argument. 

This, then, is the old problem of the harmony of 
nature in a modem and very exact form ; and this 


iarmony is nothing but a " sign " of unity or 
individuality in the universe in general. 

Unfortunately we must confess that it is the only 
" sign " of universal unity that we know exactly. 
But one is better than none, and, further, to have 
one allows us to hope thatwe may have more some day 
— ^perhaps when the distribution of land and water, 
of the sidereal masses, of "matter" in general has 
been studied with the special object of finding unity. 

At present we have not more than the one sign 
of unity ; that consists in certain features of " fit- 
ness " for life, with regard to " inorganic " unity, 
i.e. — strange to say — ^with regard to our conceiving 
the inorganic universe as an organism in the 
strict sense. The rest is chance or contingency. 
For nobody would dare to say that he understands 
under the point of view of unity ^that " these 
stones here in this forest are lying just in the way 
they are." But for monism of order as a matter of 
knowledge — and not as a mere postulate of logic as 
the theory of order — this would be necessary. 

This, then, is the general result of our inquiry : 
Monism of order as a postulate, Dualism of order and 
chance as the fact. And the only possibility of 
saving the postulate of monism in spite of our know- 
ing about dualism, is to have recourse to meta- 
physical possibilities, ^inknowdble in principle, i.e. 
to the hypothesis that there may " be " certain areas 
of reality which have no spatial signs, human 
experience being bound to spatiahty and therefore 
not able to solve even the biological problem quite 

' See above, page 225. 


All our discussions on Vitalism, suprapersonal 
unity, monism of order and dualism, and so on, with 
one single exception, ^ have, so far, been absolutely 
independent of any kind of metaphysics, have been 
throughout non-metaphysical. This assumes that 
the word " metaphysics " is to signify a doctrine 
that tries to deal with " being " without reference to 
whether this being is consciously had by myself, 
i.e. with being in itself. It appears to me that this 
statement must be explained in some detail. 

Logic as the theory of order deals with everjiihing 
that is object to myself, that is consciouslj' had by 
myself. The totality of immediate objects, then, are 
my objects, and their order is my order ; the signs of 
order, i.e. the irreducible fundamentals of logic as 
" this," " such," " relation," etc., being found by 
my introspection. And all postulates of the theory 
of order, as regards geometry or the theory of 
becoming or whatever else, are viy postulates. And 
if, further on, nature is regarded as a totality of 
mediate objects, only " meant " or " signified " by 
immediate objects or thought-contents, as a totality 

1 See page 226, where we tried to " save " the monism of order 
on the basis of certain metaphysical assumptions. 


that behaves as if it were something independent in 
itself, in particular with respect to becoming — this 
concept of nature is also my concept, is created by 
myself in the service of the theory of order which 
is mine. 

But this solipsistic conception of logic and of logic 
of nature is by no means dogmatic. For I have not 
said : " the world of my objects, both immediate and 
mediate or natural, is only my world." But I have 
said: " it is my world in any case," or, in other words : 
" this it is that I know : it is m.y world." We may 
speak here of solipsism as a critical method or of 
methodological solipsism ; and this methodological 
sohpsism is the true critical philosophy, i.e. the one 
philosophy that tries to stand on firm ground and 
not to say anything from a dogmatic point of view 
that can be said non-dogmatically. 

Thus, then, all our theory of nature, as a part of 
the theory of order, has been non-dogmatic, and, in 
particular, non-metaphysical. And this theory of 
nature includes the theory of Vitalism proper, of 
suprapersonal unity in its different possible forms, 
of monism and dualism. All these theoretical 
formulations are purely analytical and independent 
of any metaphysical conception whatsoever. Those 
who prefer it may regard these purely analytical 
formulations as the last possible word with regard 
to nature ; for them our work finishes here. 

But, in my opinion, though overstepping the 
boundaries of solipsism certainly means giving up 
the firm ground of reasoning, solipsism is by no 
means satisfactory. There is something in it that 
appears as a gap. Or, in other words : for mere 


reasons of order the solipsistic theory of order must 
try to come out of itself, to become something other 
than it was, namely, metaphysics, or a system of 
hypothetical statements about something that is 
not merely mine ; though, of course, it must have the 
faculty to become also mine, otherwise I should 
not be able to deal with it at all. 

If we here neglect the problems of psychology 
and of ethics, it is clear that it is the mere logical 
concept of nature that forces us to go beyond 
mere solipsism. Nature "as if " it were an inde- 
pendent community of (mediate) objects — this is 
not a solution, but only the way to one. Why not 
say : Nature the sign of " real " or " absolute " 
independence ? At least we may do our best, i.e. 
try to formulate a system of statements about 
" reality " in a hypothetical form. This system of 
metaphysical statements, of course, must be such as 
to explain not only nature as an object but also my 
consciously having nature ; in other words, the 
purely solipsistic analytical theory of nature and of 
my " having " nature must be a consequence of the 
metaphysical theory — ^were it not, metaphysics 
would be valueless. 

Metaphysics, then, must start from my knowledge 
of nature (and psychology) ; its method can be 
nothing but " induction," i.e. the endeavour to 
formulate statements from which known statements 
follow ; for this is the deeper meaning of the 
term " induction." Never, of course, can meta- 
physics become a system of statements that possess 
absolute certainty : metaphysics always must be 
hypothetical in the strict sense of the word. For, 


as was said, it goes from the consequences to the 
reasons, and it is a weU-known logical truth, that 
" affirmation of a consequence does not mean 
affirmation of the reason," or, in other words : a 
consequence may have had various reasons. 

It cannot be our aim here, of course, to develop a 
system of metaphysics ; not even a sketch of a 
metaphysical system can be given. We shall only 
say a few words about those metaphysical questions 
which are intimately connected with the problem of 
Vitahsm in the widest sense. 

It is meaningless to raise the question, whether 
any feature of natural reality in its empirical suchness 
or quality be " the same " as the suchness of a 
feature of absolute reality taken " in itself," or 
whether it be only an " image " of the absolute 
suchness. For in order to decide this question we 
should have to compare a something " for myself " 
with a something only in so far as it is " in itself " ; 
and this is impossible, because the " in itself " must 
become " for myself " in order to be known at all. 

The question, then, is meaningless whether to 
spatiahty as experienced in nature corresponds a 
something in the absolute sphere that is also 
" spatial." But we may safely say that, just as 
all experienced spatiality implies belonging to one 
and the same special system of relations, so also 
everything that corresponds to the quality of 
spatiality in the Absolute belongs to one and the 
same kind of system of relations, and not to difEerent 
systems. Space then — and the same holds for time, 
though in a somewhat different way — is to us a sign 
of one special system of relations in the Absolute. 


Now we have seen that what we have called 
singular causality fully appears to us in space, but 
that unifying or individualising causality, as one of 
the three other forms of possible becoming in nature, 
has only, so to say, points of effect in space, but is 
not in space as becoming. Quite apart from time, 
then, there is certainly one special system of relations 
in the absolute, besides the one that corresponds to 
experienced spatiality ; and we only know about this 
system in so far as it cuts, so to speak, across the 
system which we know under the sign of spatiality. 
It is for this reason that, even in the realm of the 
mere theory of order, we only know about the 
existence, but not about the suchness of entelechy 
taken for itself. 

Our knowledge of the absolute existence of more 
than one special system of relations — apart from 
time — only one of which, under the form of spatiality, 
is signified to our experience in completeness, is of 
fundamental importance for our comprehension of 
Absoluteness in general ; it shows us at once that 
there are features of the Absolute about which we 
have no signified knowledge. Of what we may call 
the " vital system " of relations we have at least 
some incomplete signs — in our knowledge of the 
points of intersection of this system ^^ith the system 
signified by space. But how manj" systems of 
relations may there be, of which we are absolutely 
unable to know anything at all ? Let us recall how 
by admitting the 'possibility of unknoM^able systems 
of relations in the Absolute, we were able to save 
monism of order in principle.^ 
1 Cf. p. 226. 


The concept of universal determination governs the 
whole of the theory of order, and the theory of 
natural becoming in particular — in the form of a 
connexion of becoming in itself, as if there were 
reasons and consequences in it : and the greatest 
difficulty of metaphysics is the problem -whether 
this concept of determination, \rith special regard to 
becoming, holds good, i.e. means something in the 
metaphysical sphere, or not. If not, the theory of 
order would have to lose one of its most important 
concepts in favour of metaphysics. Vi'e, indeed, 
have pressed the concept of determination as far as 
we could, and have even regarded history as a supra- 
personal evolution determined in its becoming by 
a suprapersonal entelechy. This predetermination 
of historical becoming, it is true, was of no 
practical use to us, for ice do not know entelechies 
apart from their manifestations ; but it was there 
in principle, and this the theory of order had to 
state : and, a<;cording to this theory, it would be 
possible to imagine a supra-Laplacian mind which, 
in possession of a knowledge of all pure entelechies, 
might predict historical evolutionary becoming. 

We therefore raise the question "whether the 
theory of the predetermination and vmivocality of all 
becoming is more than an outgrowth of the limited 
character of the human mind ; whether at least 
suprapersonal evolutionary becoming, as shown to 
us in phylogeny and history, may not be nndeter- 
mined or, to use a common word in its strict meaning, 
may be free. Freedom is not to mean here that the 
single individuals in a suprapersonal unity are free 
from, i.e. completely independent of, one another ; 


this possibility, or, in other words, a true monadistic 
theory, is excluded by our concept of suprapersonal 
unity from the beginning. But freedom means 
that a stream, as it were, of undetermined becoming 
of a really creative character runs through the 
totality of individuals ; whereas, if metaphysics 
decide not to admit freedom, an immaterial supra- 
personal agent would reveal itself in its own suchness 
in the course of phylogeny and history. With the 
first alternative there arises something that is reaUy 
new in the course of becoming ; with the second 
there is nothing " new " as regards the principal 
features of the manifoldness of what becomes, and 
only its materialisation is something " new." Our 
problem is the problem of pantheism or theism 
in a special form ; at least, if we call pantheism the 
one doctrine that reality is a something which 
is making itself (" dieu se fait," in the words of 
Bergson), whUst theism would be any theory accord- 
ing to which the manifoldness of material reality is 
predetermined in an immaterial way. There is no 
doubt that in this sense many of the emanation- 
systems would be theistic systems also, and not only 
those systems that accept the concept of creation 
proper. In any case there seems to me to be a 
greater difference between what we have called 
pantheism and the systems of emanation, than 
between emanation and creation — if emanation 
means that all suchness and manifoldness of know- 
able reality is predetermined in the Absolute in ani/ 

The problem is, then, accurately formulated ; but 
now we see at once that we cannot solve it ; and this 


for the very reason which prevents aU metaphysics 
from going beyond probabilities or even mere 

What we know is the impossibility of a prediction 
of further states of suprapersonal evolution from the 
states already reached and known ; what we 
postulate in the field of the theory of order is that 
impossibility of prediction does not mean indeter- 
mination. The following metaphysical question 
arises : does the Absolute agree with our postulate 
or not ? But we only know about metaphysics 
that its statement must be such as to render possible 
" experience " in the widest sense. Now it is clear 
that " experience," i.e. our knowledge of the impossi- 
bility of making predictions about future states of 
evolution, would be equally what it is, whether there 
be indetermination in the Absolute or a sort of 
determination unknowable to us. 

The problem of theism or pantheism, then, must 
remain unsolved and surrendered to belief ; and 
we may only say that those who regard the thesis 
of the theory of order as necessary for everything 
that is or can be, must accept theism and are not 
allowed to speak of " dieu qui se fait." But to 
accept theism would again mean to accept a number 
of alternatives among which it is impossible to